Food Labeling

Strict New Menu Labeling Rules Announced Today. Thanks Obamacare!


smcgee / photo on flickr

In case you need a break from your outrage over Ferguson (or your outrage over the outrage over Ferguson, I suppose), here's something completely different. And it contains the phrases final rulemaking and Hot Pockets, so you know it's going to be good. 

Today the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized new rules requiring the inclusion of calorie counts on menus and vending machine labels. The rules, which are the result of some semi-stealthy provisions in 2010's Affordable Care Act, would apply to any restaurant or other establishment with more than 20 locations that sells "restaurant-type food." That wording may sound vague, but the process of final rulemaking is ruthless and it has in fact been defined within an inch of its life. 

One reason for the "restaurant-type food" wording appears to be that the previous definiton was not good enough for some:

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who not only believe restaurants and grocery stores should be covered, but also movie houses, miniature golf courses, amusement parks and any other venue that serves prepared food.

The two lawmakers have written numerous letters to the FDA saying they are disappointed with how "narrow" the rule is.

"In fact, Congress intended the scope of the disclosure law to extend to movie theaters, bowling alleys, bookstore cafes, and other like establishments, which is the very reason Congress used the phrase 'and similar retail establishments' in the statute to extend the reach of the law beyond restaurants," the lawmakers wrote. 

They seem to have gotten their way on this one, and vending machines are covered by a second, similar rule. But the new rules don't require restaurants to label general-use mustard bottles or daily specials. So it's still basically anarchy.

From The Wall Street Journal, the obligatory we don't think these new rules should apply to us quote from the grocery industry

The Food Marketing Institute, which represents grocery stores, estimated the cost of complying with the proposed requirements at over $1 billion in the first year, with continuing costs reaching hundreds of millions of dollars.

"This is going to take away from anything that's freshly made in the store because the costs involved will be so high," said Robert Rosado, the trade group's director of government affairs. "You're going to lose fresh choices."

This plea for an exemption is somewhat self-serving (ha! see what I did there with the salad bar humor?) and exaggerated—after all, many grocery stores already post some kind of nutritional information on their fresh offerings and bakery goods without too much trouble—but it's also a good point.

hot pocket
Hot Pockets

At some point, disclosure laws cease to be about information and become strong disincentives to produce certain kinds of foods. And those may not always be be the kinds of foods that anti-obesity crusaders—remember wide American butts are ostensibly what this is all about—would like to eliminate. When faced with the choice between doing calories counts for servings of romaine, iceberg, and Boston Bibb and 17 kinds of dressing, a grocery store may opt instead to shrink its offerings and move away from marketing fresh, ready-to-eat foods to customers. On the margins, labeling may nudge some retailers to offer healthier choices, but it's also possible that grocery stores will get rid of the rabbit food altogether and just point their hungry customers to a display of Hot Pockets and a semi-sanitary microwave. 

I don't know which way things will go in the end—there are studies pointing in both directions—but this is an awfully expensive way to find out.

And one final indignity: Every menu must also include this verbiage: 

"2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary."

NEXT: Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson Told Grand Jury Michael Brown Was 'Like a Demon,' Like 'Hulk Hogan'

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”

    There’s a government-mandated app for that.

    1. According to the BMI and calorie calculators I just used, if I ate 2000 calories per day I’d eventually weigh 82 pounds and have a BMI of 11.1.

      Yeah, I’m sure that would be real fucking healthy.

      1. You’d be an inspiration to pro-ana females everywhere.

        They’d be all over fondling your protruding ribs and hip bones, even as your internal organs shut down and your hair falls out.

        1. I’ll be in my bunk.

            1. Oh baby, a little kwashiorkor and you’d be perfect.

              1. It scares me that you know that word. +1 for vocabulary though.

            2. You would be surprised at how many pro-ana people track their handful of calories every day. I was just cruising around on my app yesterday and found some pretty disturbing profiles/pictures of other users.

              I think you have the appropriate response. One girl had a picture up where you could see the SIDES of her hip bones, not just where they protrude in front. Ugh.

              1. I’m still utterly baffled that pro-ana is even a thing at all.

                1. The Internet: Allowing whackjobs from all over the planet to find one another, bond and mass for an attack.


              2. There was one I used to see running on Conn Ave in DC. She looked like a skinny version of Karen Carpenter.

                Fucking ridiculous.

                1. I have a hard enough time wrapping my mind around anorexia at all. Don’t they realize that they look half dead and very unappealing?

                  1. Don’t they realize that they look half dead and very unappealing?

                    No, because it’s a mental illness. They still think they look fat.

              3. I find exercise bulimics to be the most disturbing of all. When you can see a girl’s ribs through her tank top and she has fur, maybe she doesn’t need to be on the treadmill for three hours.

                1. “fur”?

                  1. It’s a thing. Seriously.

                    They start growing this really fine hair all over their body. It’s an attempt by the body to keep warm because it’s not insulated by enough fat or muscle.

                    1. Wow the body is an amazing thing.

                    2. At least male body dysmorphia almost always takes the form of wanting to be huger. It’s much less destructive, I think. BRB GOTTA WORK ON MY DELTS

                    3. BRB GOTTA CURL IN THE SQUAT RACK

                      AND THEN IT’S TIME FOR SHRUGS, BRO

                      GOTTA GET SWOLE!

                    4. I had wondered about that. You learn the most interesting things on here.

    2. Dead thread alert – I know none of you will find this shocking but Tony showed up late to the Savings thread to slather it with spittle and drool.

      1. He is a well-known corpse-fucker.

  2. I love how they are dumping this shit on the week before Thanksgiving when they think no one is paying attention.

    And the Republicans just need to repeal this shit. If Obama wants to shut the government down over food labels and the Democrats in Congress want to die on that hill by sustaining such a veto, let them.

    1. Yeah, we cheered the minor victories in the states that shot down GMO labeling, then this POS just appears that eclipses them all.

      1. The thing is that this shit is very unpopular with the country yet an article of religious faith with the Democratic base. The Dems get away with doing it because the Republicans never make an issue of it and the public either doesn’t realize what is going on or doesn’t associate it with the Dems because the Republicans never stand up.

        There are a whole number of these kinds of nanny state bullshit that the active left love but the country hates. The Republicans need to defund and end all of this shit. Obama will veto it and the Democrats in Congress will finally be smoked out as they vote with their base and tell the rest of the country to fuck off.

        1. “The thing is that this shit is very unpopular with the country”

          Is it though? Sadly, I can see a soccer mom nodding her head in approval as it’s explained that the menu counts make it easier for her, the harried, busy modern mother, to manage her and her children’s nutrition.

          1. So, she wasn’t managing her or her children’s nutrition before because it wasn’t convenient enough?

            Better call CPS.

            1. She was in a rush, trying to call the office, run little Ian to soccer practice, pick teen Noah up from LaCrosse, catch her college daughter’s performance art project and still get everyone fed in time for the new Modern Family. These menu counts tilt the playing field in her favor.

              1. And, yes, they live in La Crosse, WI, but he was also at lacrosse practice.

                1. It’s Bo. It’s just an aspy with chronic pedantism and a super-human ability to argue pointless minutia and move goal-posts.

              2. If the mom cared enough to care before this then she doesn’t need the government’s help now. If she didn’t care enough before then she probably still doesn’t care.

                1. Restoras, do I have to put a disclosure on my post indicating sarcasm?

          2. Already lazy moms will now be lazier? And can now point to the government when the pediatrician asks why her kids are so fat?

          3. If it was popular they wouldn’t have waited this long to do it and wouldn’t be anouncing it before a major holiday when they think no one is looking.

            Politicians in both parties have a sense of which of their policies are actually popular. And you can which ones they think are unpopular by how they act. They pull shit like this when the policy is something the base loves or their cronies want but the country hates. Popular shit is enacted during a normal week in Rose Garden cerimonies not quietly droped in a press release on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

            1. I don’t know John. I admit most people hate the nannyism that comes in the forms of restrictions and bans, but this labeling stuff, sold as ‘helping you in your busy life by making information critical to managing you and your families health’ is probably more popular than you guess.

              1. What is more convincing here, your experience or the political expertise of the people in the White House? They wouldn’t do this in this fashion if they thought it was popular. So they clearly don’t think it is popular.

                I am deferring to their judgement on that over yours.

          4. manager her and her children’s nutrition

            WTF does calorie counts have to do w/ a child’s diet? It’s the macronutrients that are the difference between a healthy child and a train wreck. Serve ’em the right food and let them eat til they’re full. Kids (and adults for that matter) don’t need to worry about counting calories

            1. *just noticed the sarcasm disclaimer*

            2. ‘Cause no one ever got fat off “whole foods.” Lol.

              1. Not when they front load protein and fat and keep the “whole foods” carbs under control

                1. So, people don’t get fat when they cut out high-calorie foods?


                  I can agree that eating “whole foods” is a very effective method of restricting calories to reasonable levels, but weight gain/loss is still all about caloric intake vs output.

                  I know plenty of folks who cut/bulk/maintain while dining out and eating what some people might call junk on a daily basis. It’s really just a numbers game.

                  1. It’s fundamentally about the 2nd law of thermodynamics, but people tend to recite the calories-in-calories-out mantra as if the human body is a linear system, as if changing the input calories has no effect on the output calories. But yes, for all the reasons, cutting out garbage food is more than enough for most people to weigh what they should weigh.

                    1. I just exercise, cut out milk and alcohol and lose fat. A half bottle of hard liquor per day is a lot of calories, roughly two Whoppers with cheese-equivalents.

              2. Very few children who are active enough will get fat, no matter what they eat. I’m pretty convinced that almost all of the recent increases in obesity can be explained by people being less active. Especially in the case of kids.

                1. But that would fall within the realm of personal responsibility/parenting not some murky corporation fattening your kids up for nefarious purposes. It’s like you don’t even want to win an election Zeb.

                2. Sorry but there are lots of fat kids on my son’s swimming, tae kwon do, soccer teams. It’s what they are eating,not their activity level

                  1. What are they eating that is so different from 30 years ago?

                    1. MORE. THEY CONSUME ALL.

                    2. What are they eating that is so different from 30 years ago?

                      40 years ago saw an enormous swing from fat to sugar. This shifted the basic diet from one that encouraged eating until you were full and remaining full for some time to one of blood sugar swings, over eating and needing to eat again much sooner.

                  2. Here comes the clean-eating argument… Ugh.

                    Are we going to get into what’s clean and what isn’t, too? Let me guess: it’s all that processed food?

                    How about it’s not what they’re eating–it’s how much they’re eating in conjunction with their activity level (or lack thereof).

                    1. I thought you meant cleaning-your-plate eating. That’s good if you’re not sure when you’re getting your next meal.

        2. The Dems get away with doing it because the Republicans never make an issue of it

          That’s because the Republicans agree with it.

          Or at least, I’m forced to believe so by their conspicuous silence on the matter.

    2. “”And the Republicans just need to repeal this shit.””

      The next president can just not enforce the rules. That is the new Presidental power.

      1. Yes. Boehner and McConnell should be trolling the fuck out of the Democrats with that. They should just put together a running list of regulations the next Republican President will exercise prosecutorial descretion and not enforce.

      2. Of course the next President can also not enforce all of Obamacare.

  3. But… but… Shriek told me that Obamacare affects literally nobody! This isn’t possible!

    1. I know. I thought it was just me, Fist, and some guy in Cleveland who were affected. Like 0.0000000000000000001% of the population. Certainly not enough to affect an election.

      1. Or even two elections.

  4. the free market will completely gut this by requiring you to agree to a 1000 page TOS you won’t read.

  5. So it’s still basically anarchy.

    A man can dream, can’t he?

  6. This is so fucking stupid.

    I count my calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients. The information is pretty much already out there if you really want to go looking for it. So they’re just making businesses spend a bunch of money to specifically publicize this information in a convenient location–where it will be conveniently ignored by the majority of Americans who sincerely DGAF.

    Also, 2000 calories? Oh… that’s cute.

    1. Yeah, and of the ones who actually use it, most will just use it to get the most calories for their buck.

      1. Agreed.

        The best part is, they’ll probably post the nutritional information “per serving.” Human beings are notoriously bad at eye-balling portions, so without a scale nearby, it’s unlikely that they’ll actually take only 1 serving. Besides that, when it comes to low calorie foods, most people succumb to ‘fat-free’ syndrome and load up because “It’s healthy!” or “It’s low-calorie!”

        1. And a lot of “low-calorie” foods are high-carb, which will pack on fat regardless of how low-calorie they are.

          1. Well, sort of. :/

            It’s true that a lot of low-calorie foods are high-carb, but carbs themselves won’t cause you to gain. It’s eating an abundance of carbs that causes a calorie surplus, which then results in weight gain.

            The stratification of your calories across fat/carb/protein macros has a large impact on body composition but not on weight loss/gain.

            1. The stratification of your calories across fat/carb/protein macros has a large impact on body composition but not on weight loss/gain.

              Do you have any sources for the latter claim? I’ve had this discussion many times and would like to know the soundness of that argument.

                1. They do mention near the end that the type of calorie can have a small effect on weight-loss, when the type of calorie is protein. However, they also say that it is statistically insignificant.

              1. Its basic thermodynamics. There might be minor differences due to stratification of calories, but the big effect is that the stratification changes behavior.

                Its the behavior that affects weight.

                Delta weight = Joules in – Joules out.

                1. Note: above assumes gravity is constant.

                  If you live in a variable gravity field, YMMV.

                  1. God* bless you, sir.

                    *If N/A, please substitute the deity of your choice.

          2. Especially low fat stuff. Look at a low fat salad dressing. All they do is replace fat with sugar.

            1. The “low-fat vinigarette” dressing at Potbelly is like that. So, yummy, so full of sugar.

            2. Fat-free ice cream is an abomination and more sugary than SugarFree’s urine.

              1. Just in case you ever want to find out what cardboard and lies taste like…


                1. Just in case you ever want to find out what cardboard and lies taste like…

                  I was so sure it was Lil Caesars Pizza.

              2. Fat free cream is an odd concept.

                1. It is.

                  However, some lower-fat options are delicious

            3. I’ll give up my fat-free Miracle Whip when you pry it from my cold dead refrigerator.

        2. Trudat. I use a one-pound serving for meat. At least one serving per day.

      2. Yeah, and of the ones who actually use it, most will just use it to get the most calories for their buck.

        Exactly this. I’m training up for an endurance event next spring and if I’m reading labels, I’m doing it to maximize the amount of energy I can get out of every dollar. But I didn’t need conspicuous labeling to do that in the first place.

        Good God, we’re doomed.

    2. Seriously, if you’re too fucking dumb to download an app to keep track of what you shove into your fat fucking mouth, chances are you do not give a shit what it is (or quite possibly understand the concept of a calorie).

  7. Great. I like salads, but hate the preparation time involved. So I love going to a salad bar in a grocery store and building a pile of vegetables just the way I want, and that will probably go away because of the need to put nutritional information on each item in the bar, and each dressing. I’ll just grab a pack of ho-hos off the shelf instead.

    1. The hilarious thing about this is that it’s already accurate for some folks (like me).

      The app I use to track my food has a barcode scanner, and, in all seriousness, I’ve bought prepackaged food over fresh food because it’s so much easier to log.

  8. PPACA: the gift that keeps on giving.

  9. On the menu on television today, lot’s of Ferguson reporting and twice the punditry!

  10. Yet another straw for the back if the Camel to support.

    Gee, I just don’t understand why the economy is in the shitter


    1. “Yet another straw for the back if the Camel to support.”

      Joe Camel has enough labeling restrictions as it is!

      1. he is restricted from existence but his spirit lives on, enabling young smokers everywhere.

        1. “restricted from existence but his spirit lives on”

          Like a hazy oasis vision from the desert from which he came.

          1. or the echo of a voice reverberating through the abyss of second hand smoke.

            1. Well put, I now have a tear in my eye. But maybe that’s from carcinogenic particulate from a cigarette.

              1. I hear there’s a Visine for that.

      2. I miss Joe Camel. He was one smooth character.

        But these days he wouldn’t look so cool when he has to huddle outside like a chump to grab a smoke.

        1. That’d be a funny youtube skit.

    2. Nothing. Left. To cut.

  11. It’s too early for me to start drinking…

    1. Wuss! Come on, suck it up…LITERALLY!

      *pours shots for JP and self*

      1. Fine Fine.

        /drinks shooters


        Just don’t complain when I screw up your order. =)

        1. And Cheers !!

    2. It sucks to be you.

  12. I anxiously await throngs of protesters taking to the streets with “my body, my choice” signs. Or is that a single-issue thing?

    Also, the recent swapping out of regular buns for pretzel buns at most sports bars and such is an abomination.

    1. Also, the recent swapping out of regular buns for pretzel buns at most sports bars and such is an abomination.

      The flavor and texture alone makes me avoid pretzel buns. Why would they do such a thing?

      1. I think my gums are bleeding just imagining it.

      2. Bad beer fad. =)

      3. My guess would be that they like pretzel buns, or think that their customers do.

        I never even knew that pretzel buns were a thing.

        1. I think some people like the idea rather than the execution. They work well with a roast beef sandwich, or with deli meats. With a burger not so much. Having the cheese, and condiments squirt out the sides when you take a bite, because the pretzel bun is too dense, not a great selling point.

          1. The only time I’ve ever even had a pretzel bun was with some kind of pizza-inspired sandwich involving pepperoni and mozzarella. That was pretty good, but I agree that the texture would be all wrong for a burger.

        2. I like pretzel-cone ice cream cones. (I-need-more-hyphens)

    2. Well, you still have the choice of what to eat, you are just subjected to the calorie counts, which isn’t really much of a hardship.
      The people who should be protesting here are restaurant owners, especially those with small chains that don’t already test their food for nutritional content. They are the victims of this law. The big chains probably love it because it creates a nice new barrier to entry for anyone who wants to expand beyond a few locations.

  13. The rules, which are the result of some semi-stealthy provisions in 2010’s Affordable Care Act, would apply to any restaurant or other establishment with more than 20 locations that sells “restaurant-type food.”

    If these guys had any integrity, they’d base qualification on sales, rather than store count. It would be hilarious to see the reactions of the Gordon Ramseys and Mario Batalis of the world to having to post calorie counts on their dishes.

    Of course, they won’t. These rules are essentially classist. The elites want to harangue the serfs about their dietary habits.

    1. Yep, it’s clearly aimed at the plebes.

  14. Obviously, the only reason I dislike this law is because I’m a racist, and I hate the blackness that is Obama.

    I mean, how else could any sensible person have issue with this law? Thank you for helping us with Lettuce Literacy, oh, Great Government! The scourge upon this nation of salads without calorie counts will be put to rest!

  15. But the new rules don’t require restaurants to label general-use mustard bottles or daily specials.

    “Hey, how come today’s special is the same as yesterday’s?”

  16. Oh noes! Without labeling, how will I ever know how to not stuff my pie hole full of crap and not become a gross fatty?

  17. A standard menu item that is listed on a menu or menu board that is not a variable menu item, in that it does not come in different flavors, varieties, or combinations that are listed as a single menu item, (e.g., a turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread with mustard), would be subject to the calorie declaration format requirements of ? 101.11(b)(2)(i)(A)(1) to (b)(2)(i)(A)(3), but would not be subject to the additional format requirements for variable menu items (proposed ? 101.11(b)(2)(i)(A)(4)), established in this rule as ? 101.11(b)(2)(i)(A)(4) through (b)(2)(i)(A)(8); see the discussion of the additional format requirements for variable menu items in section XII). However, a standard menu item that comes in different flavors, varieties, or combinations, and is listed as a single menu item on a menu or menu board (e.g., a “turkey and cheese sandwich,” with different options for the type of bread (e.g., whole wheat or white), cheese (e.g., Swiss, provolone, cheddar), fixings (e.g., onions, lettuce, tomato), and condiments (mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise)) would be a variable menu item subject to both the general calorie declaration format requirements of ? 101.11(b)(2)(i)(A)(1) to (b)(2)(i)(A)(3) for all standard menu items and the additional format requirements for variable menu items as applicable in ? 101.11(b)(2)(i)(A)(4) through (b)(2)(i)(A)(8).

    1. Answering your questions about “Additional Format Requirements That Apply When Declaring Calories on Menus and Menu Boards for Variable Menu Items, Combination Meals, and Toppings.”

      So at least they won’t require every permutation of sandwich and pizza to be displayed.

    2. How could this be simpler?

    3. Leave it to government to fuck up a basic measurement of energy.

    4. Thanks for clearing that up.

  18. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

    1. Prepping menus to meet this onerous regulation?!

      1. If by “menus” you mean cocks, yes.

  19. The two lawmakers have written numerous letters to the FDA saying they are disappointed with how “narrow” the rule is.

    Then don’t legislate your authority away to some faceless three-letter agency. Ass holes.

  20. The 2000 calorie thing has always bothered me a lot. That’s anorexia territory.

    1. Some people are not huge, you know. I have no idea how many calories I typically consume in a day. I’m skinny as fuck, but definitely not anorexic.

      1. More than 2000. Trust me.

        1. Yeah. Now I want 2.5 Whoppers for lunch.

      2. Warty burns 2000 calories in a single workout.

        1. The actual workout burns very little energy. Let’s say I do a simple workout where I power clean 275 for a bunch of reps. The bar starts at 9 inches off the ground, and we’ll say my rack position is at about 5 foot 3. So the bar moves 56 inches. Let’s use SI units and call that 1.5 meters and 125 kg, which is 1225 newtons. The work I do to pick the fucking thing up is 1225 N * 1.25 m = 1531.25 joules per rep. In Imperial units, then, I’m expending 1/3 of a kilocalorie per rep, so I’d have to do 6000 reps to burn 2000 calories.

          So…no. As far as calories go, the benefit is in increased metabolic rate following training. Which is something gigantic, I forget what though.

    2. I’m a 5’3″ female, and I lose when I gross 2000 calories.

  21. “So it’s still basically government.”

    There. I fixed that for you.

  22. Their fucking with my food! This is fucking WAR!

  23. my friend’s half-sister makes $74 /hr on the laptop . She has been fired for 8 months but last month her payment was $15926 just working on the laptop for a few hours. browse this site….


  24. But still no GMO labeling. Thanks, Obama.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.