The long-awaited specifics surrounding the mandatory posting of calorie counts in restaurants have been issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The proposal must go through public comment, and restaurants will be given several months to comply.
The rules, expected to go into effect next year, will apply to restaurants with 20 or more locations, as well as bakeries, grocery stores, coffee and ice cream chains, convenience stores and vending machines.
However, they do not -- as once envisioned -- extend to venues that serve food but are not primarily in the food business, such as movie theaters, hotels, amusement parks and airplanes (unless half of their total floor area is used for selling food).
At present, it also does not require caloric labeling for spirits, beer or wine.
In total, nearly 279,000 business units out of an estimated total 600,000 in the U.S. will be affected, per the FDA, which estimates initial costs of complying at $315 million and ongoing annual costs at $44 million, or $1,100 per unit.
The proposal states that calories must be posted in clear, conspicuous font sizes and colors, next to the individual items, in all drive-throughs, as well as in all menus and menu boards. Menus/boards will also need to inform consumers that 2,000 calories per day is the recommended nutritional guideline, although calorie needs may vary.
Calories for variable menu items would be displayed in ranges. Signs bearing items' calories would need to be posted on salad bars and other self-service formats.