Fast food chains in the US including KFC, The Cheesecake Factory and Subway will have to start publishing the calorific content of their food from next year as part of a nationwide attempt to curb the country's obesity epidemic.
According to an update of existing rules, which was issued by the Food and Drug Administration today, restaurants and “similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations” will have to start revealing how many calories are in their food.
Certain restaurants, including McDonald's, already display calorie counts on their menu boards, and similar rules have been in place in states such as New York for some time. But this is the first time it has ever been a legal requirement across the country.
The menu labelling rules include:
- Sit-down and fast-food restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops and restaurant-type foods in certain grocery and convenience stores.
- Take-away and delivery foods, such as pizza.
- Foods purchased at drive-through windows.
- Foods that you serve yourself from a salad or hot-food bar.
- Alcoholic drinks such as cocktails when they appear on menus.
- Foods at places of entertainment, such as cinemas.
Food sold through vending machines will also have to display calorie information prior to being sold. Under the new rule, which comes into effect in two years, the calories will be listed on the front of the package or on a sign or sticker near the food or selection button.
Unsurprisingly, the move has got some libertarians hot under the collar – the National Grocers Association, which thought it would be exempt, said it was disappointed at the measures, which would “impose such a large and costly regulatory burden on our members”.
Meanwhile Daren Bakst, a research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told the New York Times it was “a shocking power grab that ignored the plain language of the law”.
The FDA, however, points out that most people are not aware of how many calories are in the food they consume while in restaurants or fast food joints.
Indeed, the annual Xtreme Eating Awards, compiled by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, shows just how bad eating out in the US can be.
This year The Cheesecake Factory won three out of nine possible awards for meals including a 2,800 calorie brunch item, a 2,400 calorie pasta dish and a 1,500 calorie slice of cheesecake.
Here are four of 2014's most extreme meals according to the CSPI:
* The Cheesecake Factory’s Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic:
Calories: 2,410 calories, (equivalent to a five-hour jog)
Saturated fat: 63 grams (three days' worth)
* Red Robin Gourmet Burgers' A.1. Peppercorn burger, Bottomless Steak Fries, and Monster Salted Caramel Milkshake meal
Calories: 3,450 – you'd need to walk briskly for 12 hours to burn this off
Saturated fat: 69 grams
Added sugar: 38 teaspoons
* Famous Dave's Big Slab of St Louis-style Spareribs, including famous fries, wilbur beans, corn bread muffin
Saturated fat: 54 grams
Sodium: 4,320 mg
Sugar: 14 teaspoons
* Joe’s Crab Shack's The Big “Hook” Up platter
Saturated fat: 50 grams
Obesity is not just a US issue as the UK has its own very serious problem which is getting ever larger.