FDA Announces Widespread Calorie-Listing Regulations

FDA logoIn a ruling that will have significant and widespread effects across several industries, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will now require chain establishments with 20 or more locations to list their foods’ caloric information on their menus. This includes chain restaurants, movie theaters, amusement parks, grocers and convenience stores. The regulations will also encompass vending machines. Additionally, these establishments will also now be obligated to list the caloric information of alcoholic beverages when they appear on menus. The new regulations are part of the FDA’s ongoing measures to fight obesity.

“Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, “These final rules will give consumers more information when they are dining out and help them lead healthier lives.”

Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, commended the FDA’s new regulations stating, “We believe the [FDA] has positively addressed the areas of greatest concern with the proposed regulations and is providing the industry with the ability to implement the law in a way that will most benefit consumers.

Margo G. Wootnan, nutrition policy director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest also issued a statement in support of the FDA’s new policy.

“Menu labeling is the biggest advance in providing nutrition information to consumers since the law that required Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods was implemented 20 years ago,” she said. “It will soon seem strange that once it was possible to into a Chick-fil-A or a Denny’s and not see calories on menus and menu boards.”

But the ruling has also already drawn the ire of several other trade groups, many of whom were seemingly caught by surprise by the broad scope of the ruling. In a press release issued earlier today, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) expressed its disapproval.

“The FDA has clearly gone beyond congressional intent by expanding the types of businesses that fall under this law to include convenience stores,” said Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president of government relations for the NACS. “The one-size-fits-all approach that FDA announced today would treat convenience stores as though they are restaurants, when in fact they operate very differently”

Peter J. Larkin, President and CEO of the National Grocers Association issued a similar sentiment.

“We are disappointed that the FDA’s final rules will capture grocery stores, and impose such a large and costly regulatory burden to our members,” he said.

Exempt from the rulings are foods sold at deli counters, bottles of liquor displayed behind bars, food sold in transportation vehicles like airplanes and trains, and food served in elementary, middle and high schools under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s school feeding programs.

The new regulations are an extension of the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s menu labeling law, and will take effect in one year. However the rules applying to vending machines will take effect in two years. For vendors with 20 or more machines, calories will now be listed either on the front of the package, or on signs located near the food or its selection button.

Update: Carla Balakgie, President and CEO of the National Automatic Merchandising Association, has issued a statement in support of the FDA’s new rules.

“On behalf of our 1500, member companies, we’re glad to have final guidance on this issue. We are encouraged to see that the FDA regulations impacting our industry reflect the common sense, flexible approach we advocated regarding calorie labeling overall. The fact that “front of pack” language – similar to what we proposed and what was adopted by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee – was included in the final rules is a solid indication that our industry’s voice was heard. This is a victory for our vending operator companies.”