On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration will require any food outlet with more than 20 locations—meaning restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, fast food joints, amusement parks, your Creameries Coldstone, your Aunties Anne, your Oranges Julii—will have to list the calorie counts for each of their menu items. And not on a website or a weird sign in the corner, either. They’ll need to be front and center on the menu, so one knows exactly how many calories they’ll be ingesting with those Doritos Locos Tacos.
It’s an Obama-era policy that’s being enacted at long last, but if you’re remembering already seeing calorie counts at Starbucks and McDonald’s, don’t worry, you haven’t been incepted. Several large chains began to implement that policy voluntarily, as it was expected to take effect years ago, as a part of the Affordable Care Act. Per Vox:
For a long time, consumers were left to operate blindly when it came to how many calories they were consuming when dining out. Unlike the nutrition facts panels that come with preprepared foods we eat at home, there was no such transparency around restaurant food.
Then along came the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Buried among its many provisions were rules requiring “retail food establishments” with 20 or more locations to post “on the menu listing the item for sale, the number of calories contained in the standard menu item”… The hope was that these regulations would help people calculate how many calories they were eating, and maybe have an impact on obesity.
Vox also notes that while the effects of laws like this one are “somewhat mixed,” a menu labelling requirement in Seattle resulted in vendors adjusting their recipes to lower the calorie count. Regardless, knowing more about what we’re putting in our bodies can’t hurt. For more on the law, it’s worth checking out the rest of Vox’s detailed explainer.