The Food and Drug Administration has announced that it will be delaying the implementation of a rule that would have chain restaurants displaying the calorie counts of their foods on their menus. The rule was created as part of the Affordable Care Act to help consumers get difficult to find nutritional information about the foods they purchase from chain restaurants. Studies have shown that consumers consistently underestimate the number of calories in fast food and chain restaurant meals by a considerable amount.
Some of the chain restaurant and fast food meals intended for a single customer have more than the recommended daily amount of calories in them. Theoretically, a person that eats one of these meals would not need to eat anything else for the entire day. However, taking this route would deprive the person of many of the vitamins and minerals needed for healthy body development.
The FDA first proposed the rules for posting calorie counts back in 2011. The implementation of the rules have been stalled by disagreements between regulators and businesses that would be affected by the rules. The rule is mandated by law for businesses that have more than 20 locations. Under the rules as currently written, businesses that do not comply with the rules by 2016 could be subject to a variety of penalties.
The prepared foods section in grocery stores would be subject to the same rules as the chain restaurants. The major grocery store chains estimate that it will cost them nearly $1 billion in additional costs to label their prepared foods in compliance with the law. The effect of readily available calorie counts on consumer behaviors is questionable. A Stanford study conducted in 2010 researching the habits of Starbucks customers found that patrons consumed six percent fewer calories on average when presented with calorie count information.
Opponents of the rule say that there are already numerous ways for consumers to find the information if they really want it. Many chain restaurants have posted nutritional information about its meals on their corporate websites. There are also numerous apps for smartphones that provide this type of information. Opponents of the rule say that this access to the information makes it unnecessary for the restaurants to post the information on their menus.