Did you know that a Starbucks white hot chocolate contains 640 calories or that the Cheesecake Factory’s Morning Quesadilla contains more calories than the average American should consume in a day (2,020)? With the FDA’s new regulations, you will now.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today finalized two rules requiring that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations to provide consumers with more nutritional information about the foods they eat outside of the home.
To help consumers understand the significance of the calorie information in the context of a total daily diet, menus and menu boards must also include the statement:
“2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”
The new laws will also apply to movie theaters, which will now have to let us know about the 1,000 calories in a large tub of popcorn (before that extra “butter”).
Combo meals must also comply with the new regulations, and must list the range of possible calorie counts instead of merely the lowest possible combination. The FDA explains:
Covered establishments must declare calories for combination meals, which come with more than one food item, that are standard menu items… When the menu or menu board lists three or more choices for menu items in a combination meal (e.g., a sandwich with chips, a side salad, or fruit), the calories must be declared as a range, such as 450-700 calories. When the menu or menu board lists two choices for menu items in a combination meal (e.g., a sandwich with chips or a side salad), the calories must be declared as a slash, such as 350/450 calories.
For children’s menus, a separate statement must appear, such as:
“1,200 to 1,400 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice for children ages 4 to 8 years and 1,400 to 2,000 calories a day for children 9 to 13 years, but calorie needs vary.”
This can be important information for parents who may not realize how high the calorie counts are in some children’s meals and how much the count can vary according to foods that are picked. For instance, here are three possible combinations for KFC’s “Li’l Bucket” kids’ meals:
- Chicken Little Sandwich, Mac ‘n Cheese, GoGo SqueeZ (applesauce) and chocolate milk: 720 calories
- Four Original Recipe Bites, mashed potatoes and gravy, GoGo SqueeZ and milk: 420 calories
- Grilled drumstick, green beans, GoGo SqueeZ and Capri Sun® Roarin’ Waters: 205 calories
Obviously, calories are only one part of choosing healthy foods for yourself and your family, but this information can certainly help make informed decisions.
Restaurants and similar retail food establishments will have one year to comply with the menu labeling requirements.
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