Question: Is it a law for hotels and restaurants to have nutrition facts available? I think it would be very important.
Answer: In a word, no. They are not required by law to provide nutrition information. But it’s not that simple.
We live in a busy world. Between commuting to work, taking the kids to soccer practice and birthday parties, traveling for business, tailgating at ballgames and dining out with friends, we spend a lot more time eating out than in our own homes.
Americans consume one-third of their daily calories away from home, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This is exacerbated, as results from the 2015 Food and Health Survey (International Food Information Council Foundation) found, by the fact that one in five Americans spends less than 15 minutes cooking or preparing dinner on the average weekday.
Minding one’s daily caloric intake is important in managing weight and maintaining health. It’s one of the largest predictors in obesity, so knowing the number of calories you’re consuming is important.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that 69 percent of American adults are overweight, with 35 percent classified as obese. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that about 72 percent of men and 64 percent of women are overweight or obese.
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So, to help combat the growing rate of chronic diseases — obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease — and enable consumers to make better-informed dietary choices way from home, the FDA has amended the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) so that restaurants and other outlets selling prepared foods provide calorie content “clearly and conspicuously” on their menus and menu boards.
The regulations apply to restaurants and similar retail food outlets that meet these criteria:
- Part of a chain with 20 or more locations.
- Do business under the same name.
- Offer for sale substantially the same menu items.
Until December 2014, when the new rules were announced, nutrition and calorie information was required only on the white Nutrition Facts Label on packaged foods and beverages sold in stores and vending machines. Restaurants have until December 2016 to comply with the regulations.
Why this important for meeting planners to understand?
Today’s consumer wants clear information about what they eat. According to an Associated Press-GfK poll done in December, 55 percent of Americans say when they are judging whether a food item is healthy or not, the number of calories and amount of sodium it contains is “very” or “extremely important” to them. According to the IFIC survey, when asked what would contribute or has contributed the most to their success in maintaining/losing weight, 30 percent said controlling higher-calorie food and beverages.
The IFIC survey found that 48 percent of Americans give a lot of thought to the healthfulness of the food and beverages they consume; 80 percent are trying to lose weight or maintain their current weight.
On a FAM trip a few years ago, my hotel pulled out all the stops to display lavish buffets and showcase its culinary capabilities. I opened the “Lose It” app on my iPhone to try to calculate the calories I was eating at the initial breakfast. First we were each presented a plate full of tropical fruit, seven or eight pieces each. Then we chose from made-to-order omelets with all the standard bacon and sausage accompaniments, buffets full of freshly baked pastries, waffles, pancakes, freshly squeezed juices, and fruit and granola parfaits. Delish!
When I asked the omelet station chef how many eggs he used in each omelet, he said three or four. Wow! Three eggs alone are 216 calories. Add cheese (56 calories for 1/8 cup) and vegetables (6-30 calories), a side of sausage (125), a piece of bacon (43), the tropical fruit, a glass of orange juice (112), and the breakfast — had I eaten it all — would have been upward of 900 calories. Just for breakfast! Who in their right mind (or stomach) should eat that much. (And I hope you noticed that I didn’t even mention the pastries.)
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As meeting planners, we order the food for our attendees, so we must be conscious of what we’re serving during our watch. And even though hotel and catering menus will not be required to list calorie and nutrition information, we need to work with them to ensure the food we’re serving is calorie-friendly, healthy and delicious.
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