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New Calorie Count Rules Announced by the FDA

— November 25, 2014

FDA logo - New Calorie Count RulesYesterday, the United States Food and Drug Administration announced new calorie count rules that will be enacted December 2nd.  According to the FDA release, these rules “[require] that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations to provide consumers with more nutritional information about the foods they eat outside of the home.” (emphasis added)

Restaurants affected by the new FDA calorie count rule will include fast food, fast-casual establishments, chain bars (but only with respect to food and beverages on a written menu), and a variety of other eateries around the country.

Some states put similar laws on the books, years ago, but this federal rule is much wider. Again, the FDA: “In addition, the menu labeling final rule now includes certain alcoholic beverages served in covered food establishments and listed on the menu, but still provides flexibility in how establishments meet this provision. The majority of comments supported including alcohol because of the impact on public health. The menu labeling rule also includes food facilities in entertainment venue chains such as movie theaters and amusement parks.”

Restaurants subject to these new calorie count rules will have one year to comply; vending machine owners will have two years.  As the Washington Post reported yesterday, public reaction to these new calorie count rules was mixed: public health officials touted them as a great step toward defeating obesity and diabetes; food industry reps pushed back along First Amendment argument lines and “insisted that the effort would shrink bottom lines far more than waistlines.”

The director of government relations at Food Marketing Institute, an industry group representing grocery superstores across the country, said “Requiring labels for fresh food made in grocery stores, delis and bakeries could cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars in signage, worker training and laboratory tests to determine the calories in each dish”, which could prompt stores simply to avoid the sale of prepared food. (Washington Post)

These new calorie count rules are actually a part of the Affordable Care Act, and the FDA issued its first such rules in 2011.  Since, the FDA has sifted through some 1,100 comments “from stakeholders and consumers”, (FDA) adjusted the scope of the rules, and is now reissuing the package.  As the effects of these new calorie count rules become clear, we will update you here at Legal Reader

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