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Five Facts About the FDA's New Menu Labeling Rule

The calorie counts you've long seen at Starbucks will be at every chain restaurant starting today.
Calories are listed next to menu items in a Starbucks coffee shop in New York City.

Calories are listed next to menu items in a Starbucks coffee shop in New York City.

Today is the first day that chain restaurants and other retail food establishments nationwide are required by federal law to display calorie information on menus and make other nutritional facts available upon request. The Food and Drug Administration's new rule includes movie theaters, vending machines, convenience stores like 7-Eleven—any food service chain with 20 or more outlets.

Here are a few key facts about the nutrition labeling rule.

  1. This regulation was many years in the making. But it has hit delay after delay as a number of businesses, including convenience stores and pizza chains, fought it. The FDA extended the rule's compliance date multiple times. "Over the past year we've worked hard to make sure this new rule can be implemented in a way where the information will be maximally beneficial to consumers and the new requirements will be minimally burdensome to restaurants and retail establishments," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote on the agency's blog.
  2. It's part of Obamacare. But it's slipped through the Trump administration's attacks on the Affordable Care Act and other anti-regulation measures. "I do not see these nutrition issues as a right-versus-left issue," Gottlieb told Politico.
  3. Some places have already been displaying nutrition information for more than a decade. New York City first implemented a menu labeling policy in 2006, followed by several other cities and states. Chains including Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, and McDonald's have already institutionalized their menu labeling nationwide.
  4. Though there's more research to be done, some studies have found that menu labeling reduces consumers' calorie intake. Based on data culled from 28 studies, a Cochrane review concluded that menu labeling helped people to consume roughly 50 fewer calories.
  5. Displaying nutrition information on menus could make consumers healthier even if it doesn't affect how they order because the restaurants themselves may lower the calorie content of the food they offer. One study found that at five fast-food chains subject to menu labeling, healthier options increased from 13 percent to 20 percent between 2005 and 2011.