FDA-Mandated Calorie Count Boards Are About To Sweep Every Restaurant You Hold Dear
The federal government wants you to watch your calorie intake — literally. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration finalized new calorie-labeling rules that will apply to any retail food establishment with 20 or more locations — your Chipotle, your Olive Garden, you name it. Under the new guidelines, which are listed under section 4205 of Obama's Affordable Care Act, many establishments other than chain restaurants will have to list the number of calories contained in their food products, such as movie theaters, amusement parks, and convenience stores. One thing that they all have in common? No one is happy about it.
FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. said in a press release on Tuesday:
Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home and people today expect clear information about the products they consume. Making calorie information available on chain restaurant menus and vending machines is an important step for public health that will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.
Under the new guidelines, food retailers "will be required to clearly and conspicuously display calorie information for standard items on menus and menu boards." Seasonal or temporary menu items, however, are exempt from the rule. Also part of the new rule? Menus will now be required to include the statement:
2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.
The message will serve as a reminder — or perhaps first-time information — for people when they're choosing food items.
The new guidelines were originally proposed in 2011, but have been delayed due to heavy resistance from the food industry. Many of the affected businesses, such as movie theaters and amusement parks, complained that they were unfairly being included in the mandate because food was not their primary product and therefore they should be excluded. Convenience stores argued that the new required labels would be so costly that it would actually deter them from serving fresh foods, which require more frequent replacement and therefore more labels to be produced.
Nevertheless, food retailers will have one year to comply with the rule, while vending machines will have two years. Here's how the FDA's new calorie labeling guidelines could change our lives.
"A large popcorn has how many calories?" [Faints] This might become a common scenario at movie theaters everywhere once these new calorie labels expose the gargantuan amount of calories in theater popcorn — what did you expect from hot melted butter that comes out of a pump?
With these new calorie labels, funnel cake will finally be exposed for the incredibly unhealthy snack that it is — I mean, it is literally batter fried in hot oil. Parents will feel pressured to deny their kids the powdered-sugared treats, kids will cry and wail and ask to go home...amusement parks may or may not go bankrupt as a result.
When it comes to calorie labels, they only really help if there are enough healthy alternatives to balance out the high-calorie foods. If your choices are hot dogs, nachos and cheese, and the usual packaged items like Slim Jims, what's the point of having calorie labels? However, if convenience stores offer things like veggie wraps and veggie and hummus snack packs, then calorie labels would make their maximum impact.
If the items in vending machines don't change, then I foresee a spike in gum sales, because just about everything else is chock-full of calories for the amount of servings they offer (barely enough to satiate a small animal).
Absolutely nothing would change. It's Chipotle.
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