by Marion Nestle
Sep 13 2012

McDonald’s will post calorie info on menus. Won’t it have to anyway?

I’m puzzled by the huge media attention to McDonald’s announcement that it will post calories on menu boards.

McDonald’s will have to do this sooner or later.  By doing it now, it gets a public relations bonus.

Why will it have to?  Because the Affordable Care Act takes menu labeling national (see my previous post on this).

When the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, it made menu labeling constitutional.

The FDA wrote proposed rules for menu labeling early in April.  These, you may recall, contain exemptions for movie theaters and other venues.  Note: There is still time to file complaints about the exemptions.

Implementation of the rules can’t begin until the White House Office of Management and Budget releases them.  It’s had them—along with food safety and other regulations—under consideration for months.

Presumably, OMB will act eventually.

McDonald’s looks like a champion getting out in front on this one.

Other fast food places will have to post calories too.  The only question is when.

  • Whenever I visit Seattle, one of the things I notice is that ALL fast food resteraunts are required to label their menus w/ calorie counts. I think it’s a great step in the right direction, if nothing more to give the consumer information & hopefully make them thing twice about what they are ordering. McDonald’s will still offer awful food & posting calorie info for french fries won’t deter everyone from ordering, but hopefully it will get people thinking.

  • Jon Weaver

    This reminds me of Disney making headlines in June that their television and radio networks will phase out junk food ads – meant to look industry leading but it is something federal law will require them to do anyway…

    here’s a story about it:

  • John

    McDonald’s in Las Vegas has been putting calories on its menus recently. Also, lower calorie options have been prominently displayed Overall positive in my view. The information enables people to make choices. Unfortunately, most ignore the calorie numbers and order the usual super sized sugar drinks, hyper calorie fries and the largest burgers.

    Just my observation, but I felt McDonald’s is making an honest effort and commendable. Not perfect, but a giant step in the right direction, which deserves some praise (hint-Marion).

    Now how about that 35% obesity rate in Mississippi?

  • Cara

    There’s no federal requirement to phase out junk food advertising to kids. Disney took that action voluntarily. Menu-labeling is a first step towards giving adults more complete information. Protecting our children from predatory marketing of unhealthy food should be next.

  • Mike Femia

    The PR bonus seem like a fringe benefit.

    Think strategy:

    If McDonalds knows it’s going to have to post calories sooner or later, why not do it ASAP to gauge how its customer base responds?

    If there’s a sudden drop in demand for certain items, they can act accordingly, and begin retool their menu before their direct competitors.