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Health Care Bill Calls Out Chain Restaurants, Vending Machines

The health care overhaul was signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday, including a provision directed toward chain restaurants.

restaurant menu sign

Photo: Alex Schwab

The healthcare bill mandates that retail food establishments include calorie counts on their menu items within one year.

Perhaps the biggest news of the past week was the passage of the health care overhaul that was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Sunday and signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday.

Although most of the provisions in the bill address health care services and insurance, there is a provision directed toward chain restaurants.

Chain restaurant have frequently been at the center of controversy over the growing obesity epidemic in recent years. By appearing to jump on the health-food bandwagon, some have tried to mask the ever-increasing fat content of their menu items.

New Standards For Restaurant Menus

Section 4205 of the health care bill mandates that all retail food establishments — including vending machines — clearly mark the caloric value of each menu item within one year of the bill’s passage.

Some establishments are already ahead of the game: Panera has already begun putting calorie counts on their in-store menus and online.

However, the new provisions do not force establishments to disclose the calorie counts on condiments — where fat can often hide in items like salad dressing — nor must retail food establishments disclose nutritional information for items that will remain on the menu for less than 2 months.

Megan Meyer

Megan Meyer was in the company of foodies for most of her formative years. She spent all of her teens working at her town's natural food co-op in South Dakota, and later when she moved to Minneapolis, worked as a produce maven for the nation's longest running collectively-managed food co-op. In 2006, she had the distinct pleasure (and pain) of participating the vendanges, or grape harvest, in the Beaujolais terroire of France, where she developed her compulsion to snip off grape clusters wherever they may hang. In the spring of 2008, Megan interned on NPR's Science Desk in Washington, D.C., where she aided in the coverage of science, health and food policy stories. She joined Indiana Public Media in June, 2009.

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