A little-noticed provision tucked into the House's nearly 2,000 page bill would require chain restaurants and operators of vending machines to post calorie counts for the food they sell. Don't feel bad if you missed it, it's stuck down in Section 2572, starting on page 1,510.
Will calorie counts like these keep consumers from buying the burger?
Will calorie counts like these keep consumers from buying the burger? Chris Hondros/Getty
New York already requires chain restaurants to post calories. And California isn't far behind. But the House bill would take the concept national, make calorie counts prominent, and also require the display of suggested daily calorie intake. Maybe then Americans could make a more considered decision about the Big Mac (540 calories) or Premium Southwest Salad without chicken (140 calories), please, they're about to scarf?
The move is being lauded by supporters, such as Rep. John Larson a Democrat from Connecticut, who said in a statement that the menu changes would empower Americans "to make their own health care choices." Empowering, perhaps, but the changes sound like a fair amount of work for those in the restaurant biz. Nevertheless, the National Restaurant Association "strongly supports" the provision, a spokesman for the trade group told us.
Under the provision, every restaurant chain with more than 20 locations and every operator of more than 20 vending machines would have to put a "clear and conspicuous" calorie label next to each menu item. The bill specifically points out that even self-serve food areas, like salad bars, would be required to label each item on the bar.
There are some exceptions. No calorie counts are required for condiments, daily specials or food that's part of a market test, as long as the test is shorter than 90 days.
Should the House bill pass, confused consumers wouldn't be the only winners — we're forecasting a bright future for the stock of calorie testers and sign makers.