New FDA rules requiring calorie counts to be listed on menus at chain restaurants and other places that serve food go into effect this week nationwide, giving customers more tools to make healthier choices.
GIVING customers more information so they can make educated choices is empowering — and might even improve their health.
And, as it turns out, that’s something Republicans and Democrats can agree on, even in today’s divided political environment.
This week marks the start of new labeling rules from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, requiring thousands of restaurants, grocery stores and movie theaters to post calorie counts on their menus. The new rules, included as part of the Affordable Care Act, are now backed by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, President Donald Trump’s nominee, as well as by key lobbying groups for the restaurant industry.
Refreshingly, this common-sense measure has managed to elude the current president’s wide-ranging war on regulations. Researchers studying calorie labeling in King County found that when customers see and use calorie-content information posted on menus, they make healthier dining choices.
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Other studies have found that as chain restaurants have been required to post calorie information, they have reduced the calorie content of some of their menu items voluntarily. In some cases, researchers also noted that restaurants cut back on advertising of supersized portions after the labeling rules went into effect.
The new federal rules are broader than the calorie-labeling requirements King County officials put in place for chain restaurants several years ago — they apply also to movie theaters and grocery stores that serve prepared food. The requirements affect chains with 20 or more locations nationwide.
These changes won’t end the problem of obesity. But, if customers have the information available as they are deciding what to order, they can opt for more healthful alternatives. Informed consumers might choose to trim a small amount of calories by, say, holding the extra meat on their pizza or leaving the syrup out of their latte.
Major restaurant groups are embracing the national rules partly so they don’t have to comply with different regulations that vary from county to county.
Beyond that, restaurants want to find ways of showing consumers how they can eat out several times a week without sacrificing their health, said Anthony Anton, the president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association, which represents restaurants, bars and hotels throughout the state.
The calorie-labeling requirements don’t stop anyone from ordering a cheeseburger or a milkshake. They do help people know what they are eating, so they can make the most informed choice.
That’s an effort worthy of bipartisan support.