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Affordable Care Act Requires Restaurant Chains to Disclose Calories on Menus

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The 2010 Affordable Care Act in the United States implemented one of its final components this week.

Restaurant chains and even vending machines with over 20 locations must show calorie contents.

Counting Calories

Restaurant chains and vending machines with more than 20 locations must disclose the calories in each food item.  These need to be clearly displayed on menus and food boards.  The information must also show consumers the sodium and fat content of each food item.

The new Affordable Care Act (sometimes known as Obamacare) regulation applies to food service businesses with over 20 locations.  Therefore, it is not exclusive to fast food restaurants and vending machines.  It also applies to pizza delivery places, grocery stores, sit-down restaurants and convenience store chains.

Scott Gottlieb, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, explained that this added nutrition information can help Americans to make informed decisions.  The goal is to support people across the United States in improving their own health.  This, in turn, will better public health in general.

Reducing Food Consumption

Gottlieb stated that the added nutrition information assists consumers in making informed dietary choices.  He underscored that medical studies support the use of food labeling in order to decrease individual food consumption.

The National Restaurant Association agreed that this is a positive change and is fully compliant.  The Association’s executive vice president stated that providing nutrition information about foods on menus and food boards is “long overdue.”

Lack of Flexibility

That said, the positive feeling about this particular component of the Affordable Care Act is not unanimous.  Grocery stores, convenience stores and some pizza delivery chains have stated that the new regulations are strict. They are seeking improved flexibility.

“We are trying to make lemonade out of the lemons FDA presented — working to implement a law that was poorly designed for the businesses we represent and poses liability challenges at the state and local levels with regard to enforcement,” said the Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) chief policy officer and senior vice president of government relations, Jennifer Hatcher, in an official FMI statement.

Hatcher also pointed out that “our members have exerted an extraordinary effort in analyzing and labeling hundreds and in some cases, more than 1,000 items, thus enabling customers to identify more clearly the wide array of healthy options available in a grocery store.”

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Alvexo on the matter.