by Marion Nestle
Mar 23 2010

Calorie labeling to go national!

The impossibly impenetrable health care bill that just passed the House has one little piece of good news buried in it: national calorie labeling.

The provision covers chains with 20 outlets throughout the country and is supposed to go into effect in a year or so.  It also covers vending machines!  These are great steps.  Calorie labeling has two effects.  It educates anyone who is interested to look and think about it.  And it encourages chain restaurants to offer lower calorie options.  See note below giving the index to this section.

Cheers to Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has lobbied for years to get this into law.

Note:  Thanks to Ellen Fried for sending me this link to an Index to the menu labeling provision.

  • This policy was adopted in Philly a couple months ago. While I don’t tend to eat at chain restaurants, it’s really helpful for when I do.

  • Does the “health care reform” bill address REFORMING the food industry? ummmmm…nooooo..of course not!!why would it? Food has NOTHING to do with our health, not here, not in AMERICA, the land of “good health”!!The land of golden grains and fresh blue waters!!RIGHT???? Does the HEALTH CARE REFORM BILL ADDRESS what happens to the poor Americans, forced to pay for insurance, monthly, our of their already strained incomes, now, what are they going to do, when they go to the grocery store?? Continue with their same habits..go buy some cheetos, some soda , and sit in front of the boob tube, depressed about the taxes they face now, depressed about the rising costs of everything,and now having to pay for their own insurance premiums, and feeling so happy the BILL PASSED, but…oh…it costs extra…oh….they thought this was going to be a “GOOD” BILL…..

    People’s habits aren’t going to change..and until they do, health care won’t either. Their habits won’t change as long as that trash is on the shelf. It tastes good, and the stuff is being marketed into their faces. The government encourages THAT MARKETNG by accepting campaign & LOBBYING money from those junk food companies. That’s why FOOD INDUSTRY reform isn’t mentioned in health care reform…even though food manufacturing and production has EVERYTHING to do with health care reform.. it’s just that no one wants to face it. We will go into a great financial depression because of it..

  • Anthro

    I would argue that the Health Care Reform Bill has more than “one little piece” of good news…” such as my 21 year old granddaughter. who has a terrible case of psoriasis, can now remain on her parents’ insurance until she finishes college and (hopefully) finds a job with benefits or obtains her own insurance in spite of this pre-existing condition.

    Nevertheless, I am very happy to hear of this tidbit. Also, Starbucks will quickly and happily tell you the calorie content of their bakery items if you ask. They posted the calories on a cookie for awhile, but I think it was an experiment because it didn’t last very long.

  • More small steps in the right direction 🙂

  • i mean is this a good thing or a necessary step of “fight obesity”… it’s not about the calories it is about the nutrients and eating whole food. a step in the right direction would entail getting rid of the inside of the grocery store, soy, HFCS, and growing hierloom seeds and raising humane animals. regardless of what calories are in my food, as long as my food is REAL i could care less about the calories. they become a problem only when you add in unnatural foods.

  • This provision includes vending machines as well.

  • utouchmyheart

    Sadly, calories have very little to do with what people should choose to eat. They also have very little to do with obesity. Nutrient dense high calorie food is a much healthier option than nutrient deficient low calorie food. If only calories counted we could all drink 0 calorie diet soda and have the perfect body composition, right? This is a misguided PR attempt to look as if this bill includes some positives.
    Fast Food chains are not interested in offering healthy options, they are interested in moving as much food and as many people through their restaurant as possible. Being forced to offer a lower calorie option will simply result in even less quality food being offered.
    Lets look at the REAL facts, not the ‘facts’ that are false, but sound good…..

  • @ocd You really should add a /sarcasm at the end of your rant. We all know that processed foods are bad but there is too much belief in pseudoscience that says that genetically modified fruits and veggies are bad, when the real science of 500 years of selective enhancement says otherwise. There is also no proof that organics are any better than properly grown conventional veggies. Real proof by the way means scientifically published reports from clinical trials.

    I couldn’t agree more with you about the humane raising of animals. While a happy cow doesn’t taste any different, it assuages my guilt of enjoying it so much.

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  • Cindy

    The stage has been set for a titanic battle between the insurance and food industries. I can hardly wait for the opening salvo when insurers decide they have to do something about the toll poor diets takes on Americans. It’ll be ugly, folks (but so much fun).

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  • Hey it’s a start to a big problem I guess better late than never.

  • Meredith

    Hi Marion,
    Can you tell me why beer, wine, and liquor manufacturers are not required to put the nutrition information on their products? I like to watch my calories, and but the lack of labeling on alcoholic beverages makes it really hard and irritates me to no end! Do you know anywhere I can actually go to find this information? I have resorted to Googling “calories in a (INSERT BRAND NAME HERE” beer,” but feel like there has to be a better way.

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  • Sam

    @Meredith. The reason you do not see nutrition information on beer, wine, and liqour is that their labels are regulated by the TTB not the FDA, and the TTB does not require nutrional labeling. There has been talk about nutritional labeling on alcoholic beverages, but there has been a lot of arguement in the industry about what would constitute a standard serving, not surprisingly, this has slowed things down. An interesting thing to note is that some alcoholic beverages, like wines below 7% ABV (typically wine coolers), do not fall under TTB jurisdiction and thus have to conform to FDA nutrional labeling guidelines.

  • I think we can go into requiring the nutrition facts to be shown but it won’t guarantee a sense of responsibility on the drinker/eater…
    Yes I go for trying anyhow.. at least we did our part in telling people not to abuse thier bodies…

    Ortodonzia Implantologia Chirurgia Posturologia Igiene Orale

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  • People should know what they’re putting in their bodies, so I’m all for calorie labeling. I read this article about hidden fat and it kind of made me feel betrayed. I’m very conscious about what I eat, so when I discover that I just ate something I didn’t want to, that makes me feel cheated.

  • Haha! I think you just confused me all the more. 🙂

    I keep thing simple with this diet: the less you eat, the more weight you lose. Never mind counting calories.

    I try to be diligent with my diet, but it really does get tiring watching what you eat all the time. I read this article about hidden fat and it kind of woke me up! I didn’t realize I was getting fat without my knowing it.

  • April

    I am all for adding calorie counts to menus! Personally, I like to have a lot more information about the foods I eat, so I really would have liked it if they took it one step further and required the restaurants to provide full nutrition facts about the foods they serve. Obviously, posting a full nutrition label on a menu for every item is not really feasible, but is it too much to ask to have it posted on a website or perhaps in a paper handout available separately in the restaurant? I guess a small step is better than nothing at all, but as a previous poster noted, nutritious high calorie foods are better than nutrient-bankrupt low calorie foods!

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  • there are portable wine coolers which also fit in a small office space. i use them in my home office ;;,

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