Government rulemakingTwo final rules from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will require movie theatres, grocery stores serving prepared foods and vending machines to display calorie information to would be consumers.

Among the health advocates cheering the regulation: the American Heart Association (AHA), which urged Congress to include the rules in the Affordable Care Act.

Reversing obesity

“Calorie control is key to reversing the nation’s obesity epidemic,” said AHA CEO Nancy Brown. “Thanks to these new FDA labeling rules, Americans will now have easier access to calorie counts for foods and drinks before they place an order or push the buttons on a vending machine.”

A recent survey conducted in 17 states found that a majority of Americans use available calorie information on menus when deciding what to order at fast food and chain restaurants.

According to a statement by the AHA:

“Research indicates we underestimate the calories in the foods and drinks we choose and, as a result, consume more than we need. The larger portions on our plate served by restaurants also can lead to overconsumption. This not only causes obesity, but puts us at risk for cardiovascular disease and an early death. But under these new FDA regulations, consumers will now be able to compare options before making a selection just as they would when reviewing ‘Nutrition Facts’ labels at the supermarket. By requiring movie theater concessions and prepared foods from grocery stores to meet the same requirements as restaurants, the FDA is empowering consumers to make better food choices wherever food is sold. No matter where you purchase them, foods and drinks that are high in calories or low in nutritional value have the same negative effect on your health.

Armed with information

“While eating out, getting a to-go meal, or grabbing a snack from a machine may save us time, it usually doesn’t shrink our calorie intake. Armed with this nutrition information before they take their first bite, Americans can make the best food and drink choices to build a healthier life free of heart disease and stroke. We applaud the FDA for releasing these new rules and look forward to seeing them put into practice.”

The AHA said the nutritional information – which will be readily available to consumers upon request – will also help those who want to limit specific nutrients, such as those with hypertension who are on a low sodium diet.