After a series of delays, restaurants around the country will now be required to provide nutritional information to diners.
The law is one of the last pieces of President Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act to take effect. The restaurants that fall under the law’s purview must also provide information to guests about the sodium and fat levels in their food.
However, chain restaurants won’t be the only affected businesses: According to CNN, grocers that sell prepared food like sandwiches and salads, pizza delivery restaurants, movie theatres, and even vending machines will also have to post calorie counts.
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb promises that “This is a meaningful, incremental step in addressing the country's obesity epidemic.”
A law mandating that fast casual restaurants post calorie counts has been in effect in New York City since 2008, however, the FDA did not finalize a standardized law that could be adopted nationwide until 2013—and the federal government has faced continual delays in implementing the regulations, as the New York Times reported last year. At the time, the city had finally decided to begin enforcing the law, “including fining establishments that did not comply,” but eventually agreed to postpone until May 2018, in line with the rest of the country’s compliance date.
While many public advocates believe that these regulations provide consumers with information that will help them make more educated and informed decisions regarding their diet, critics call it “government overreach.”
However, the National Restaurant Association is on board with the new law. A representative for the organization told CNN that most chain restaurant won’t see a sales slump as a result of the requirement.
Still, some chains do fear that it will be an undue burden to post extensive calorie counts, especially at restaurants with robust dining options. To that end, the FDA had produced a guide for affected business, which, in part, clarifies that promotional flyers don’t have to include calorie counts and that establishments which don’t use menu boards don’t need to add any to be in compliance.
It should be noted that some researchers are still on the fence about whether or not posting calorie counts to menus actually helps people eat healthier. One recent New York University study found that only 8 percent of people adjusted their diet after reading calorie counts at chain restaurants.