What New U.S. Nutritional Rules Mean for You

With Americans now spending half of their food dollars on meals prepared outside the home and obesity at alarming levels, the federal government is moving aggressively to deal with the issue on a number of fronts.

As part of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, Congress mandated certain changes in the way food providers must label food items, generally calling for more detailed information about calorie counts. But those rules have taken a few years to wind their way through the federal bureaucracy.

The Food & Drug Administration finally came out with rules last year, including those governing vending machines and self-service markets, and they’re set to take effect next year. They will, for instance, require vending machine operators to post easily visible calorie information for each item dispensed by the machine. We’re now studying all those details, so as to fully comply with the new rules.

But these impending changes only codify many of the trends we’ve been seeing in our business for several years. Responding to our customers’ ever-increasing interest in fresher, healthier food, we’ve been going in that direction for some time, in all our venues. Salads, vegetables and other fresh, nutritional foods are now among our biggest sellers in many locations, and these new rules may well accelerate that trend.

We asked Dr. Sara Bleich, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who has conducted research into the effects of food labeling on consumer choices, about the state of research on this topic. She pointed us to a study which notes that “although current evidence does not support a significant impact on calories ordered, menu calorie labeling is a relatively low-cost education strategy that may lead consumers to purchase slightly fewer calories.”

In the end, we think that’s a good outcome for everyone.