Calorie count law in flux

By: Katie Sawyer

Americans going out to a restaurant lately have noticed some changes to their menus. Now, restaurants are adding a calorie count with a side of fries. The theory is that by listing the calorie count next to a faithful fan’s favorite foods, they will be able to change the consumer’s eating habits. For instance, when a customer learns that according to McDonald’s website, a large McDonald’s sweet tea has 50 more calories than a small fry, they may be less likely to tack that onto the end of their order. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website, “posting calories on menus and menu boards and providing other nutrient information in writing in chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments will fill a critical information gap and help consumers make informed and healthful dietary choices.” Officially called the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, the law is aimed at restaurants with 20 or more locations nationally. The law is backed by the National Restaurant Association, who released a statement following the implementation of the act, according to The Hill.

“As grocery stores and convenience stores continue to sell restaurant food, they should be subject to the same rules as others, allowing consumers to make informed decisions about what they eat regardless of where they were purchased,” vice president of government affairs at the National Restaurant Association, Dan Roehl, said in a public statement.

For Arizona, these changes to menus will become a permanent part of local chain restaurants, which will have to adhere to the calorie count laws put into place under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to the FDA, these changes were given an extended deadline to May of this year. However, everything could change if the new federal administration repeals the ACA entirely, taking the calorie count law with it.

Some examples of calorie counts added to menu items at a restaurant on Northern Arizona University’s campus. Photo credit: Katie Sawyer
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