The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finalized two rules under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that require chain restaurants and vending machine operators to disclose calorie information on menus or at the point of purchase. Generating more than 1,100 public comments, the federal rules aim to standardize labeling requirements “to provide consumers with more nutritional information about the foods they eat outside of the home.”

Effective December 1, 2015, the menu-labeling final rule applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments with more than 20 locations, as well as food facilities in movie theaters, amusement parks and other entertainment venues. According to FDA, which narrowed the scope of the rule to focus on restaurant-style food, the new labeling provisions cover standard menu items, certain alcohol beverages and multi-serving dishes labeled on a per-serving basis, but exempt “condiments, daily specials, temporary menu items, and food that is part of a customary market test.” Chain restaurants must also display on menu and menu boards (i) a succinct statement concerning suggested daily caloric intake, and (ii) a statement regarding the availability of written nutrition information.

Under the second final rule, which takes effect December 1, 2016, vending machine operators who own or operate more than 20 machines must provide “clear and conspicuous” calorie disclosures for each item on sale unless this information is already visible to prospective purchasers. Calorie disclosures must meet FDA requirements for type size, color and contrast and can appear “in, on or adjacent to the vending machine, so long as the sign is in close proximity to the article of food or selection button.”

“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 Hamburg. “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.” See FDA News Release, November 25, 2014; Federal Register, December 1, 2014.