Do Restaurants Typically Provide a Calorie Count for Their Meals?


Quick Answer

As of March 2015, restaurants are only required to publish calorie counts on menus in certain states and generally do not do so voluntarily if not required to. A new federal law requires chain restaurants that have 20 or more locations to publish calorie counts by December of 2015, however.

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Full Answer

The new federal law is a part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's requirements were finalized and published on Dec. 1, 2014, and chain restaurants with more than 20 locations have one year to comply. Chains can get out of this requirement if not all their locations operate under the same name or if they offer substantially different menu options.

New York and California have had laws requiring restaurants to publish calorie counts in place for several years. California requires all chains to publish calorie counts on either a menu board or a brochure, regardless of number of locations. New York requires any chain with more than 15 locations nationwide to publish calorie counts, including coffee retailers such as Starbucks. New York was the first state to pass such a law.

The new FDA regulations also require vending machine companies to disclose calorie counts on the machine, but they have two years to comply.

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