Late last week the Food and Drug Administration made a huge announcement that basically holds more businesses accountable for the calories in the food they choose to serve. The new food laws, which falls under the Affordable Care Act, will absolutely affect you; expect to know how many calories are in that tub of popcorn at the movie theater, for instance.
Let’s break down the most important changes you will notice next year.
1. All major businesses will need to display their calorie counts.
Some big cities are already held to this standard, like New York City. But the FDA’s new laws will require any establishment that sells prepared food (and also has more than 20 locations) to display its food’s calorie information. A one-stop independent bakery will not be affected, but your local and booming coffee purveyor that’s become a chain will not be exempt.
2. Calories will be on the menu.
Calorie content will appear on menus and menu boards in restaurants, though bakeries, coffee shops, pizza joints, movie theaters, and amusement parks will be affected, as well. The idea is to provide easy access to the caloric information of your food choices to help you realize exactly what you are ingesting. The FDA also hopes that it will inspire restaurants to make healthier food preparation choices.
3. All nutritional information will be available.
Though calorie counts will be the only thing so clearly displayed, restaurants and other food establishments are legally obligated to provide other nutritional information to consumers. Sodium, fat, protein, and sugar values will all be available at the consumer’s request.
4. The loophole at a grocery store.
The FDA has decided to exclude family-sized prepared foods from the new law. Items like deli meats, cheeses, and deli salads in large amounts are not required to follow the new law, however a single sandwich sold in the grocery store will have a calorie label.
5. Yep, booze counts.
If an alcoholic beverage is included on a menu, it will be required by the law to have its calorie count displayed as well. Think twice before reaching for those sugar-bomb mixed drinks. The exception? If a drink not on a menu is ordered, the calories will not be presented.
For even more education on the subject, our resident nutrition expert, Mary Hartley, RD, wrote a great blog on how to use calories on the menu. The hashtag #FDA on Twitter will also bring up a lot of conversations that are worth reading. Restaurants and food-based establishments have one year to comply with the new laws.