Calorie labeling on restaurant menus, once confined to large chain restaurants in certain cities, is soon coming your way. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration announced its final rules for nationwide nutritional labeling, implementing a little-known provision of the Affordable Care Act that called for its expansion. The rules stipulate that any business with more than 20 locations that sells prepared food—think vending machines and food trucks in addition to restaurants—will have one year to comply with the rules.
It's not hard to see the logic behind menu labeling. While the United States is no longer the most obese developed country in the world—Mexico assumed the top spot last year—nearly a third of all Americans are obese. And in a country where 50 cents of every dollar spent on food is spent outside the home, unhealthy restaurant fare cannot escape blame. Informing customers of the calorie count of what they order in menus, then, should help them make healthier choices.
But this doesn't necessarily work in practice. Since companies like McDonald's, Starbucks, and Burger King began implementing calorie labeling at select locations, researchers have conducted several studies into what, if any, effect the labels have on public health.