The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finalized two new nutrition labeling rules for vending machines and menus at chain restaurants. The rules require vending machines, chain restaurants, and similar retail food establishments, including movie theaters, to provide customers with clear nutrition information on menus or menu boards. According to the FDA, “Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home. Making calorie information available on chain restaurant menus will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.”
The two rules are a result of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and have important implications for public health, according to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, reinforced Hamburg’s sentiment, “This is one of the most important public health nutrition policies ever to be passed nationally. Right now, you are totally guessing at what you are getting. This rule will change that.” The rules cover any food vendor that is part of a chain with 20 or more locations—everything from KFC to the Cheesecake Factory to prepared foods in grocery stores.
Opposition from pizza and movie theater chains had delayed final rules for years following the passage of the Affordable Care Act. What was finalized on Tuesday is more inclusive than expected. Things such as food served at a hot food bar, hot dogs at a convenience store, take out pizza, and even some alcoholic beverages, are all included in the rule. Not only does the rule require a calorie count to be easily accessible on the menu, but also that comprehensive nutrition information is available upon request. At restaurants, covered establishments have up to one year to add succinct calorie information to their menus. The FDA is allowing two years for vending machines to comply with the rule.