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Calorie Labeling on Menus and Menu Boards

You may have noticed that some restaurants have included the calorie count on their menus and menu boards.  That’s because this rule was part of the Affordable Care Act that was signed in 2010, and, even though restaurant lobbyists slowed the process down of menu labeling (it was supposed to be effective as of 2011), some restaurants knew it would happen eventually and started implementing it anyway.  But as of May 7, 2018, the rule took effect and you will start to see the calories on menus in all chain restaurants that have at least 20 locations (both sit-down and fast food), grocery stores, convenient stores, movie theaters, and even some vending machines.

The point of this law is to allow us, the consumers, to make better and more-informed decisions on what we ingest.  For example, if you knew that a certain appetizer had over 1000 calories, and that your entrée itself had over 1000 calories, would you still order the appetizer?  Most people would probably pass.  This was one reason why the restaurant industry tried to stop this from being implemented, as they feared it would be bad for business if people are ordering fewer items.

Even if calorie labeling doesn’t change someone’s mind about ordering certain high-calorie dishes, the restaurants and food manufacturers themselves may feel inclined to redo their food options to make them contain less calories to make them healthier (or at least appear to be).

The FDA did note one study which said people consume about fifty less calories when eating at an establishment with calorie labeling.  While this may not seem like a lot, over the course of weeks and months, it can really add up and make a difference (Galewitz, 2018).  Having this transparency in place will also dispel myths about dining out, particularly that the salad option is the healthiest choice on the menu, as that is not always the case.  Now the menu and menu board will have to show that.

References:

Galewitz, P.  (2018).  Obamacare’s Calorie Count Rules Goes Into Effect.  Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/07/health/restaurant-calorie-count-partner/index.html

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