Following somewhat shocking research that revealed Americans eat and drink one third of their calories away from home, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has put immense effort into passing a law that will require major restaurants to display calorie counts clearly on their menus.
Vending machines, long-time providers of unhealthy snacks and beverages, will also be required to display calorie counts under the new law. The FDA hopes that as a result of the law, Americans will make healthier eating choices and restaurants will feel pressure to offer healthier meal options.
The Road to Calorie Counts
Today, two out of three American adults is considered to be obese or overweight, costing the country $190 billion in medical expenses. Despite clinical research training to combat obesity using drugs, and food quality training to ensure the integrity of products we eat, consumers are still opting for unhealthy choices.
So, what will putting calorie counts on food achieve? Health complications as a result of obesity include Type II diabetes, colorectal cancer, heart disease, high blood sugar, gout and much more. Medical aid and hospital stays for these preventable conditions is costing Americans and Canadians billions of dollars every year, and thousands of unnecessary deaths.
To control obesity and prevent obesity-related deaths, we must look at how people are making decisions about food. In a national survey, 28% of Americans admitted to eating fast food once a week, and 1 in 4 admitted to eating fast food every day. Americans in general consume 31% more packaged foods than fresh foods. It is believed that a lack of childhood healthy eating practices is at the root of America’s unhealthy food problem. Education is a key factor in encouraging cleaner eating habits.
What Food Services Will Be Affected?
Restaurants and fast food chains are known for having extremely high calorie foods. A single Big Mac contains 540 calories, or over a quarter of your daily calorie requirements. A chain restaurant such as Boston Pizza in Canada carries dishes like Chicken Fettuccine that total up 1500 calories a plate. Given how often North Americans eat out or eat fast, it’s no shock that the population is gaining weight with these largely hidden calorie counts. To provide transparency and promote education, chain restaurants, fast food joints, and restaurants with over 20 locations, will be forced to add calorie counts beside menu items. Some other foods that will have to conform to this rule include:
- Hotdogs from stands
- Baked goods from cafes etc.
- Movie theater popcorn
- Alcoholic beverages on menus
- Salad bars and hot food bars
Hopefully with the new FDA law, graduates from pharmaceutical courses will be able to shift their focus away from drugs for obesity-related disease – and we as consumers will take a closer look at the way we choose food.
Would prominent calorie counts influence your menu decisions?