If lawmakers get their way, you won't be seeing calorie counts and nutritional info on restaurant menus any time soon
Once again, Obamacare is under fire—but this time the issue isn't health insurance, it's nutrition labels. Right now, Congress is going head-to-head with the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recent regulation that food establishments provide calorie counts on foods. This menu labeling rule will require restaurants to list calorie information on menus and menu boards; additional nutrient information, including total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, and protein, will have to be made available on request.
So what's the issue? Well, the menu labeling requirement is slated to take effect December of this year. But Congress is insisting that these requirements be pushed back until after the next Presidential election. A group of 32 senators are insisting that food service establishments, especially supermarkets, need more time to provide clear and concise information to consumers. The senators are also complaining that the FDA does not provide clear and consistent guidance when it comes to carrying out their rule. (Check out Why the FDA’s KIND Bar Crackdown Is Nutty.) Problem is, this pushback could open the door for the next president to block the rule altogether. And that might be dangerous considering the fact that one-third of calories are consumed outside the home, and providing nutrition information on menus and prepared food can help us make healthier choices.
Do You Have a Right to Know?
As a nutrition professional, such opposition makes me wonder if Congress is taking consumers best interest into account. After all, if the next President were to scratch this rule altogether, then you won’t know how many calories are in the food you order. (And shouldn't we all be allowed access to such basic information?) Perhaps you don’t pay attention to calories now, but many consumers can and do utilize them to help with weight maintenance and weight loss efforts. (Start by learning 12 Ways to Decode a Restaurant Menu.)
Not only does some research suggest that labeling foods can help us eat less, and be more mindful about our choices, but with the impending requirement, some companies like Starbucks have already cleaned up their menus. And really, don't we all want healthier food—no matter where we're eating it? If fast food chains and restaurants alike began to make healthier menu swaps because of this, we'd all benefit in the long run. And that's a win-win.
What do you think about this issue? Tell us your thoughts in the comments or tweet us @Shape_Magazine!