By Matt Sloane
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
Nov. 25, 2014 -- The FDA announced new rules Tuesday that require chain restaurants and vending machine operators to post calories for food and drinks on their menus.
The rules, which have been in the works since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, apply to restaurants that have more than 20 locations nationwide.
"Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home, and people today expect clear information about the products they consume," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, in the agency's press release. "Making calorie information available on chain restaurant menus and vending machines is an important step for public health that will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families."
Many large chain restaurants, including Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, and McDonald's, have already started the practice in anticipation of these rules. New York City passed a law requiring calories on menus in 2009.
Consumer advocacy groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest are applauding the rules, but saying they are long overdue.
"Menu labeling is the biggest advance in providing nutrition information to consumers since the law that required Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods was implemented 20 years ago," CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan said in a written statement. "It will soon seem strange that once it was possible to go into a Chick-fil-A or a Denny's and not see calories on menus and menu boards. We hope that small chains and independent restaurants provide the same information voluntarily."
The National Restaurant Association, a trade organization representing the companies affected by the rules, was not immediately available for comment.
Restaurant and vending machine operators will have 1 year to put the changes into effect.