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FDA Mandates Calorie Labeling on Chain Restaurant Menus

In a move meant to give consumers a nutritional prompt about foods they eat outside the home, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in late November finalized two rules mandating that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations.

“Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home and people today expect clear information about the products they consume,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD. “Making calorie information available on chain restaurant menus and vending machines is an important step for public health that will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.”

Calorie data must now be provided for these items:

  • meals from sit-down restaurants
  • foods purchased at drive-through windows
  • take-out items, such as pizza
  • foods such as made-to-order sandwiches ordered from a menu or menu board at a grocery store or delicatessen
  • foods you serve yourself from a salad or hot-food bar
  • muffins at a bakery or coffee shop
  • popcorn purchased at a movie theater or amusement park
  • scoops of ice cream, milk shakes or sundaes from an ice cream store
  • hot dogs or frozen drinks prepared on-site in a convenience or warehouse store
  • certain alcoholic beverages

Foods not covered include a loaf of bread or a pound of deli cheese.

The final rule on menu labeling applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they
are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under
the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. It includes food facilities in entertainment venue chains such as movie theaters and amusement parks. The final rule on vending machines applies to companies that own or operate 20 or more machines.

Restaurants and similar retail food establishments will have 1 year to comply with the requirements; vending machine operators will have 2 years.

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