Calories in Food from Vending Machines and Chain Restaurant Menus Must Be Listed Per New FDA Rule

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Menus and vending machines are about to get a little more congested: The FDA has finalized two rules requiring calories in food be listed on chain restaurant menus and vending machines.

The ruling only affects chain restaurants and vending machines with 20 or more locations, and is aimed at helping consumers make healthier food and beverage decisions.

“Strikingly, Americans eat and drink about a third of their calories away from home – often consuming less nutritious foods and also underestimating the calories that they eat,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told Food Safety News. She said that while the move won’t fix our nation’s obesity epidemic, it is a step “that will help consumers make smart, healthy food choices for themselves and for their families.”

The decision came after the FDA reviewed more than 1,100 comments on the proposed calories in food labeling rules back in 2011. “[T]he agency narrowed the types of foods covered to focus on restaurant-type food, built in flexibility for multi-serving dishes like pizza to be labeled by the slice rather than as a whole pie, expanded coverage to include certain entertainment venues like movie theaters and amusement parks and required that certain types of alcohol have labels,” reports Food Safety News. Consumers will also be able to obtain the information more easily by requesting it directly from the companies if it's not easily accessible on menus or websites.

Independent restaurants, bars and grocery stores are exempt from the rule, as are mobile food trucks and carts and food served on airplanes. Special “off-menu” items will not be required to comply with the calorie facts rule. “FDA’s menu labeling rules will now provide a consistent nation-wide standard that will apply to many more restaurants and food businesses,” Hamburg said of the rule.

“Menu labeling is the biggest advance in providing nutrition information to consumers since the law that required Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods was implemented 20 years ago,” Margo G. Wootan, nutrition policy director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest said in Food Safety News. “It will soon seem strange that once it was possible to go into a Chick-fil-A or a Denny’s and not see calories on menus and menu boards. We hope that small chains and independent restaurants provide the same information voluntarily.”

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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