Health Law Will Demand Calorie on Menus Nationwide

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As part of the new healthcare reform, more than 200,000 chain will have to include calorie counts on menus, menu boards, buffets, vending machines, alcoholic drink menus and even drive-throughs making it harder for diners to ignore what they are eating. Apart from calorie counts the menus will need to inform the customer about sodium, carbohydrates, fiber and protein contained in the food item and portion.

"The nutrition information is right on the menu or menu board next to the name of the menu item, rather than in a pamphlet or in tiny print on a poster, so that consumers can see it when they are making ordering decisions," says Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, who wrote the provision. "That growing patchwork of regulations and legislation in different parts of the country has been a real challenge, and this will allow operators to better be able to provide their information," she said.

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The purpose of this directive is to create awareness among customers and stop food stores from hiding the calories. At present many restaurants give the calories counts and nutritional information in a hallway, food wrapper or on their websites. This new law will make such information more readily available. This will also help aid in the fight of obesity in our country.

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said it's one step in the fight against obesity. "Coffee drinks can range from 20 calories to 800 calories, and burgers can range from 250 calories to well over 1,000 calories," she said.

Some portions of the law will go into effect immediately. Experts estimated that it could take up to two years before the menu guidelines are issued.

"While it's a huge victory for consumers, it's just one of dozens of things we will need to do to reduce rates of obesity and diet-related disease in this country." The National Restaurant Association dropped its longstanding objection to menu-labeling last year and supported the language passed in Congress, Wootan said.

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