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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After much anticipation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued two proposed regulations regarding calorie labeling on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants and retail food establishments, and on vending machines.
The menu labeling rule would allow consumers to see calories listed in restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering substantially the same menu items. Included would be fast-food establishments, bakeries, coffee shops and certain grocery and convenience stores. Movie theaters, airplanes, bowling alleys and other establishments whose primary purpose is not to sell food would not be subject to the proposed regulation.
A companion rule proposes calorie posting for food sold in vending machines.
"These proposals will ensure that consumers have more information when they make their own food choices," said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Giving consumers clear nutritional information makes it easier for them to choose healthier options that can help fight obesity and make us all healthier."
The FDA is now inviting public input on the proposed regulations at www.regulations.gov.
"Americans now consume about one-third of their total calories on foods prepared outside the home," noted FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "While consumers can find calorie and other nutrition information on most packaged foods, it's not generally available in restaurants or similar retail establishments. This proposal is aimed at giving consumers consistent and easy-to-understand nutrition information."
The Affordable Care Act requires the disclosure of calorie and other nutrition information in certain food establishments and for certain foods sold in vending machines. Statements also would be posted concerning suggested daily calorie intake and indicating that additional nutrition information is available upon request. Under the proposal, this information would be displayed clearly and prominently on menus and menu boards, including menu boards in drive-thru locations, and for individual foods on display.
Under the proposed rules, operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines would have to post calorie information for food sold in the machine, unless certain nutrition information is already visible on the individual packages of food inside.
State and local governments could not impose any different nutrition labeling requirements for food sold in restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines covered by the federal requirements. Those not covered by the federal requirements could voluntarily register to be covered under the federal nutrition labeling regulations.