There’s no more hiding behind your Happy Meal. On Monday, McDonald’s started listing calorie content at its more than 14,000 restaurants and drive-through windows across the United States.
“We are rolling out national menu boards featuring calorie information, because it’s the right thing to do for our customers and our brand,” said Danya Proud, spokesperson for McDonald’s USA. “Polls show about 80% of Americans favor having nutrition information listed on menu boards, and as the industry leader we believe we can help play a role in bringing greater attention to the importance of calories and nutrition overall for customers.”
McDonald’s has already posted calories in New York City and Philadelphia, and in states like, California and Vermont, where the information is required by law, as well as in South Korea, Australia and the UK, with plans to expand to Latin America next year.
McDonald’s decision to post calorie information in the U.S. comes ahead of regulations that are part of the federal health care overhaul, requiring restaurant chains and retail food establishments with 20 or more locations across the nation to post calories in their stores. The exact time frame for all this to happen is still unclear.
In the past McDonald’s has come under fire for not offering enough healthy menu items, as obesity rates rise in the U.S.
McDonald’s said its new menu items include more fruits and vegetables, as well as more grilled chicken items.
The calorie counts are designed to offer some food for thought that may help consumers make wiser, healthier choices. For example, a lunch consisting of a regular hamburger, a small order of fries and an iced tea has 480 calories, according to McDonald’s. An Angus Bacon Cheeseburger, large fries and a medium coke total 1,500 calories.
Experts say the calorie postings may have a domino effect on smaller businesses – and could encourage health regulators to encourage new requirements for other food sellers.
“If the biggest restaurant chain on earth can cheerfully announce that it’ll put calorie counts on menu boards, the Food and Drug Administration should take notice,” said Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Police at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
“The Administration should issue final menu labeling rules that include vending machines, restaurant-style foods sold at supermarkets, convenience stores and movie theaters, and not give in to every special interest that doesn’t want to play by the same rule,” said Wootan.
Other quick service restaurants including Panera Bread, Chipotle and Au Bon Pain have also started posting calorie counts.