Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently issued a couple of rules for the fast-food industry regarding nutritional information on their products’ labels. Within a year, fast-food restaurant chains, some convenience stores, bakeries, drive-ins, coffee shops and many more will have to give detailed infos about their products’ nutritional values.
FDA is mainly concerned about calories, but the labels may also include carbohydrates, type of fats, sodium, protein, sugars, or fiber, if the customers ask it. The measure is meant to provide consumers with additional information on what they are eating, and help them make more informed food choices when dining out. About on third of an average American’s calories intake comes from food consumed away from home, FDA said.
“These final rules will give consumers more information when they are dining out and help them lead healthier lives,”
Margaret A. Hamburg, FDA spokesman added.
FDA had also a practical reason for taking this step – the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act did not include labeling for fast-food restaurants. As a result, many US states, and even cities, i.e. New York, created their own labeling standards for these restaurants, making it difficult for a chain restaurant to meet all the different standards across the US.
The new labeling rules affect chain food restaurants and similar food establishments with minimum 20 locations, functioning under the same name, and offering the same type of menu of “restaurant-type” food. This also includes take-out and delivery restaurant chains, such as pizza chains, drive-ins, salad bars, hot-food bars, movie theaters, and amusement parks. Cocktails and other alcoholic drinks need also to be labeled when they are on a menu.
Also the new rules cover the vending machines, if their owner has minimum 20 of them. Food inside vending machines will have to have a list in front of it, near it or the selection button with calorie information. FDA new rules on vending machines will be enforced in two years time.
FDA menu labeling rules do not cover food sold at deli counters, the bottles of alcohol displayed at a bar, food when it is transported by planes, trains or food trucks, and food on menus in schools that are part of federal feeding programs.
Calorie information on labels must be clearly displayed, and it is forbidden for restaurants to use a smaller type for the calorie info than for the price or menu’s name. Also the new rules state a reminder will need to appear on every menu or food product: “XYZ calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”