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New FDA Ruling Requires More Establishments to List Calorie Counts

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The Food and Drug Administration has announced new rules that will mandate calories to be displayed by chain restaurants, convenience stores, and even movie theaters. A chain is considered a food establishment with 20 or more locations. Within one year, all affected food industry retailers must adhere to the rules. Currently, some states and cities have their own rules for providing nutrition facts, but this new announcement calls for consistency across the country.

Food retailers will also be required to display the calorie count information in type that is no smaller than the name and price of the food. Menus and menu boards must also read somewhere, “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” Since we know that a calorie is not just a calorie, and the actual nutrients play into the overall health benefits of a food, retailers will also have to provide additional nutritional information upon request, which includes total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, fiber and protein. (Are you counting calories wrong to begin with? Find out here.)

Where you’ll see the numbers popping up:

  • Sit-down and fast-food restaurants, including bakeries and coffee shops
  • Prepared foods in grocery and convenience stores
  • Self-serve foods from salad bars or hot food bars
  • Take-out and delivery foods
  • Food at entertainment locations, like amusement parks and movie theaters
  • Food purchased at the drive-through (and you thought you could escape it…)
  • Alcoholic drinks, like cocktails, when they appear on a menu (now that margarita doesn't look so good!)

Even food policy experts seem to be shocked that alcoholic beverages are being included in the new rules, according to The New York Times. Another surprise? The inclusion of vending machines. Companies operating more than 20 vending machines will have two years to get nutritional information for all items posted on the exterior of the machines. (Looking for a snack that won't derail your diet? Check out the 50 best snacks for weight loss here.)

While the rules may be strict and initially costly for retailers, the long term health benefits to Americans will hopefully pay off.

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