by intern Christine Binder
Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed the health care bill into law. Tucked away inside the massive piece of legislation, there is provision requiring chain restaurants with 20 or more outlets in the United States to list calorie counts on menus, menu boards, and drive-through displays. The law, which affects over 200,000 U.S. restaurants, also applies to vending machines.
In 2008, New York City was the first to mandate calorie counts, and was followed by Seattle, California, and over a dozen other states and municipalities. The Food and Drug Administration will create standards for the labeling, which should come into full effect within the next few years. Soon enough, people all over the country will be able to see the number of calories in an item before they purchase it. According to food policy guru Marion Nestle, calorie labeling has a second positive effect: it motivates fast food and chain restaurants to provide lower-calorie offerings.
For more information see Nestle’s blog, Food Politics.