The Battle of the Bulge – New Guidances from FDA on Calories and Fast Food

French Fries
 Anyone who has ever sat in an airport waiting for a late flight – and who hasn't – may have noticed something disturbing while engaged in the healthy pursuit of people-watching.  We are increasingly a nation of fatso's.  Not long ago on my way home from Chicago I watched the 2005 film by Mel Brooks The Producers, starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick as Max Bialystok and Leo Bloom, respectively.  It was one of those airplane moments where I am locked in my own world with my headset and my i-Pad, but when the scene came up where Leo Bloom, in argument with Max, tells Max that he is "fat" – "fat, fat, fat, fat" I began to laugh uncontrollably.  

But its no laughing matter really.  We are fat.  I am fatter than I would like to be.  

For those who followed the passage of the recent legislation to reform health care – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 – you may have been extremely focused on the aspects that have to do with health insurance and how we access the health care system.  However, you may not have noticed some of the other provisions, like the one that requires fast food entrepreneurs to label calorie content on menus, and likewise for vending machine operators.

For those who live in or have visited New York City, you will have experienced this first hand, where calorie content is labeled.  No doubt for people who are dieting, this is useful.  For those who aren't – well, they are probably ignoring the information.  Like really, if you are buying a sandwich that is filled with cheese, bacon and some part of which or all of which is fried – well are you really going to be put off by the calorie content?  (Hopefully).   In addition to releasing draft guidelines on the menu applications of the new law, FDA also released on related to the requirements for food from vending machines.  

Here is what the new law requires of chain restaurants (defined as a group that has over 20 locations)… the calorie count for menu items, for food that is on display (think salad bar) should be visible to consumers as well as some additional nutritional information for menu items should be made available for consumers should they ask for it.  Not sure who you would ask when it is a vending machine.  

You also might be further surprised that the provisions for this were effective back in March 2010, however, the FDA has said that it will not be active in enforcement until the public has had the opportunity to provide comment and input into the guidances. 

To submit comments you may have electronically to the docket, you have to go to the site of Regulations.gov – a site I have not found to be very user friendly.  Once there, go to the top task bar and enter "Submit a Comment".  In the "Keyword" space then enter one of the following docket numbers:

  • for the July 7 docket notice:  FDA-2010-N-0298
  • for the August 24 Draft Guidance on Menu labeling:  FDA-2010-D-0370
  • for the August 24 Guidance on Vending Machines:  FDA-2010-D-0354

Then select "Search".  

See what I mean?  

I could totally dig some french fries right now…. 

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3 Responses to The Battle of the Bulge – New Guidances from FDA on Calories and Fast Food

  1. Scott says:

    This is long overdue. This is the first generation of kids who may not outlive their parents … it’s time for someone to step in and start making people more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies at these restaurants.

  2. Scott says:

    Correction from my last post … the first generation of kids who may not have a longer life expectancy than their parents.

  3. Kathy Goff says:

    Well done, Mark….again.