The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday released new regulations that will require restaurants and vending machines with 20 or more locations to clearly post the calorie counts of food items on menus.
The change, FDA said, will provide consumers with more information about the foods they eat outside of the home. The rules are required by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
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According to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Americans consume about one-third of their calories out of the home.
Covered food establishments, the rule says, 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 or temporary items are exempt.
Because some states already require some form of calorie identification, the new regulation will provide uniformity, FDA explained.
The rules were created with input from more than 1,000 comments, some of which suggested a narrower scope of the rule.
FDA did change some aspects of the rule, including making changes to more clearly focus on restaurant-type food and ensure the flexibility for multi-serving dishes like pizza to be labeled by the slice rather than as a whole pizza.
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, FDA said.
The menu labeling rule also includes food facilities in entertainment venue chains such as movie theaters and amusement parks.
The FDA also provided establishments additional time to comply with the rule – one year.
The vending machine final rule requires operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie information for food sold from vending machines, subject to certain exceptions. Vending machine operators will have two years to comply with the requirements.