Chain restaurants to get calorie labels under new FDA rules

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Under new FDA rules approved Tuesday, chain restaurants and vending machines will have to provide the calorie content of their menu items.

Some chains, like Au Bon Pain or Pret A Manger, already offer this information — but now all restaurants with more than 2o locations of the same name will have to print the total calorie count for each item next to its name on the menu. Included with the restaurants are coffee shops, amusement parks and movie theaters.

As Vox explains, these rules have been four years in the making, are required under the Affordable Care Act — and take a stronger stance on labeling than initial suggestions.

The rule only requires a calorie count to be posted — the actual breakdown of grams of fat, carbohydrates, sodium, etc., must be in written form and available at consumer request.

Some alcoholic beverages are included in the labeling. According to the New York Times, this means alcoholic drinks that are posted on a menu — not ones you’d order at a bar.

The restaurants have a year to comply.

Owners of 20 or more vending machines are also required to comply with the labeling, though they have two years to do it.

Studies have shown mixed results on whether showing people the number of calories they are about to consume actually influences their choice. Sometimes, you’re going to the movie theater and you’re just going to have popcorn– you decided it already– so knowing its 1,500 calories won’t deter you. It will, however, help you make informed decisions.

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