No more eating Taco Bell in ignorance! Chain restaurants with more than 20 locations will now be legally required to display calorie counts on their menus. This law not only applies to fast food joints, but sit-down restaurants, convenience stores, vending machines, and even movie theater concession stands. Information about sodium and fat must also be made available to consumers as well.

The law is one of the last pieces of legislation from Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act to go into effect, as it has faced multiple delays over the past eight years.

Numerous chains including McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Chipotle have already started to implement menu labeling in anticipation of these new guidelines (which is how I currently know that an Oreo McFlurry has 570 calories, thank you very much). The FDA claims it will work with the restaurant industry in the coming year to help educate them about how to best meet these new standards.

While the goal of the law is to provide consumers with adequate nutritional information in order to help them make more informed dining decisions, researchers are unsure whether or not these new regulations will actually have an impact. A recent study from New York University found that only eight percent of consumers adjusted their orders after reading calorie counts. So yeah, maybe not.

However, these new regulations may be effective in getting chain restaurants to offer healthier options, given the newfound transparency of their menus. After all, if all your appetizers have over 1,000 calories, that’s not a good look. It will definitely be interesting to see what, if any, impact the law will have on shifts in consumer behavior and corporate responsibility. But regardless of the cultural outcome, one thing’s for sure: I’ll still be chowing down on a slice of Cheesecake Factory’s Reese’s peanut butter cheesecake….all 1,330 calories of it!

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Jessica is a former Associate Editor at Chowhound. Follow her on Twitter @volume_knob for updates on snacks and cats.
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