Numbers game: Rough transition hampers new FDA-mandated calorie count listings

Throughout this year, the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has been complying with the health conscious population of today and mandating some chain restaurants to update their menus with a calorie count per item. The initial thought was that this would work as a partial solution to America's ever increasing obesity rates, the calorie labeling serving to keep people informed about their food choices.

Food Safety News reports: "The general rule is that any restaurant with twenty or more locations is required to label products with calorie information. This rule also includes vending machines."

But what exactly has been happening since the March 2010 FDA rules? And does calorie labeling really help consumers make healthier decisions?

The issue:

In August, the FDA resubmitted the mandate with added regulations and a more lenient view to the chain restaurants. Apparently to help the transition, the draft designates more time for the restaurants “to comply with the new provisions.” Also the FDA expects “to refrain from [further] enforcement action for a time period” until the regulations are  finalized.

But this hold on the calorie count rush makes sense. Ultimately, chain restaurants have to submit all of their menu entries to expensive laboratories to perform calorie examination. These examinations must be done multiple times in order to get an accurate test. Not to mention scientists have a vast array of options in testing calorie counts — burning, grinding, freezing. Not only is time, energy, and more importantly, money an issue, but some restaurants are still opposed to this mandated labeling. Something has to give for successful menu updating, right?

What gave:

Although the FDA believes the transition to be a hard for restaurants, some have in fact already complied even before the nationwide mandate. Places like Subway and Panera Bread (in some locations) already hopped on the health bandwagon and list calorie counts alongside menu items. In various cases, suggestions are placed in menus to help consumers knock off a few calories (sandwiches with and without condiments). However, those restaurants entering into the likewise stance have new leeway provided by the FDA to fiddle with the calorie count. Ultimately, is all that you’re eating really only at the amazing count of 395 calories? Most likely not.