Today, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a long-awaited final ruling requiring calorie information on "menu boards in chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations... The rules are required by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."
The ruling is meant to standardize information for brand-name food items, covering as many Americans as possible. The FDA acknowledged that several states have been preemptive in enacting their own rules. The new FDA standard will ensure some degree of consistency across state lines.
"The menu labeling final rule 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. Covered food establishments will be required to clearly and conspicuously display calorie information for standard items on menus and menu boards, next to the name or price of the item. Seasonal menu items offered for sale as temporary menu items, daily specials and condiments for general use typically available on a counter or table are exempt from the labeling requirements."
We here at Fast Food Source do not object to this type of labeling. In fact, one of the key features of fastfoodsource.com since our launch in 2000 has been links to nutrition information. In fact, when we first launched this website, we researched and typed calorie, fat, and sodium content for chains where it was not easily found online. Providing this information at point-of-purchase only makes sense.
It will be interesting to see whether this rule has any effect on how chains market their products or what products they decide to advertise. For instance, will we see a surge in health-conscious fare like salads and other "lite" offerings as chains try to de-emphasize their more heavily weighted caloric offerings? Time will tell.