Calorie count rules take effect Monday

Showing total calories in food can make consumers more conscious of their health

Every restaurant chain, grocery and convenience store, movie theater, even vending machines with more than 20 locations now has to post calorie counts for their foods. The Obama administration published a final rule in December of 2014, but implementation was pushed back three times, most recently on May 4 previous year - just one day before the law was set to take effect. The far-reaching Obamacare regulation mandating calorie counts on menus went into effect on Monday.

Many chains, including McDonald's, Panera and Starbucks, began posting calories several years back.

A national law requiring calorie information on menus takes effect this week. Currently, over 40% of the USA population is obese.

"Americans deserve to know what they're getting when ordering for themselves and their families at chain restaurants, supermarkets and other food retailers", says Margo Wootan, vice president for nutrition for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group.

Not so fast. Our research, which is forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, suggests that we should not dismiss calorie labeling just yet, and that a trivially simple intervention can considerably increase the impact of calorie labels on consumers' food orders. At the very least, Congress should monitor the effects of new regulations, like this menu labeling law, and amend or repeal them if (and more likely when) they prove to be ineffective, burdensome, and harmful to the well-being of our nation. "Calories are not the only piece of information people need, but they can give people a general idea of the size and a basis for comparing", she said. So the menu tells patrons that a burrito can supply anywhere from 740 to 1,210 calories, depending on the rice (210 calories), beans (130 calories), salsa (15 to 80 calories) or cheese (110 calories) you put in. "I don't do any of the carbs", she said, as she dashed out of the same Chipotle in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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The FDA said it will be working with restaurants over the next year to help change their menus.

Dr. Gottlieb said in a recent blog post that if Americans consumed 64 fewer calories per day, on average, then they would help the nation meet the government's goal of reducing youth obesity by 2020.

"We're going to be flexible", he said.

A USA regulation that went into effect Monday directs chain restaurants to label calories on their menus, in an effort to encourage people to consume in moderation.

And that 50 or so calories per meal?

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