Why Are Calories Printed on Menus at Some Restaurants?

Why Are Calories Printed on Menus at Some Restaurants?
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In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a final rule allowing customers to obtain nutrition information for food and beverages including alcohol in some restaurants and other comparable retail food establishments. The rule implemented the nutrition labeling provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Combined with vending machine calorie labeling, these rules are estimated to save more than $400 million over 20 years, as providing calorie labeling is expected to empower consumers to make “informed and healthful dietary choices.” Published in 2017, an interim final rule extended the compliance date to May 7, 2018, and was followed by a one-year grace period during which the FDA worked with restaurants and retail food establishments to ensure compliance.

The rule states that calorie information must be adjacent to and clearly associated with menu, grab-and-go, buffet and self-service items, including drinks. The rule applies to establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations, including restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, convenience stores, grocery stores and foodservice facilities within entertainment venues such as movie theaters. The rule does not apply to schools, where nutrition requirements are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture.

In addition to displaying calories on menus, some nutrition information must be available in written form, such as a booklet or poster; this includes total calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, sugars and protein. On its website, the FDA provides supplemental guidance for industry about implementing the rule as well as resources for consumers to use the nutrition information.

References

Calories on the Menu; Information for Consumers. U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Updated May 8, 2019. Accessed May 15, 2019.
FDA Shares New Online Tool to Assist with Menu Labeling Compliance. FoodSafety Magazine website. Published December 3, 2018. Accessed May 15, 2019.
Food Labeling; Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments; Extension of Compliance Date; Request for Comments. Federal Register website. Published May 4, 2017. Accessed May 15, 2019.
Food Labeling; Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments. Federal Register website. Published December 1, 2014. Accessed May 15, 2019.
Menu Labeling Requirements. U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Updated September 14, 2018. Accessed May 15, 2019.
Menu Labeling Rule; Key Facts for Industry. U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Accessed May 15, 2019.
Menu Labeling: Supplemental Guidance for Industry. U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Published May 2018. Accessed May 15, 2019.

Taylor Wolfram
Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, is a private practice dietitian in Chicago.