by Jenny Knodell, IQS Editor
Last week, the biggest change in healthcare since the implementation of Medicare in the 50s took place. The bill will affect every American in some way, and not just when it comes to doctor visits. One provision of the bill requires restaurant chains of 20 or more locations and vending machine manufacturers with 20 or more machines to display the number of calories for each item on the menu. This will prove to be a definite challenge in the restaurant industry, especially to fast food chains who largely serve unhealthy items. The new information will be added to every menu, kiosk and food container, or else the business will be forced to pay a hefty fine. Many restaurants may opt for new labels on their food packaging, and will be required to redesign every single label to include new nutritional information. While the food industry considers this bad news, label manufacturers are reaping the benefits.
Some food chains, like this bakery, have already started displaying calorie information labels.
While larger fast food chains and franchises will probably redesign their menus and boards, smaller restaurants might opt for additional labels on their food packaging and in their display windows. There are two different methods to go about label printing—ordering custom made labels from a supplier, or purchasing labeling equipment for in-restaurant use. Label printers are an inexpensive method of producing cheap, custom-made adhesive stickers to add onto food products. Purchasing large quantities of labels from manufacturers is another option. Their facilities are equipped with large-volume, state of the art labeling machinery that can produce adhesive-backed paper with literally any information or graphic printed on the front.
Ever since displayed nutrition facts on all store-bought food items became an FDA requirement years ago, a close relationship between retailers and manufacturers developed. Because of the health care bill, a similar arrangement between restaurants and manufacturers might soon grow. Facilities that produce fast food packaging will likely develop a need for specialized labeling equipment and machinery, and integrate it into their assembly line. Regardless of where restaurants choose to display caloric information, labels are bound to become a necessity to food chains.
Nutritional information labels.
In a year, these new calorie labels will be a common part of the fast food experience. On every menu, board and box of fries, the caloric information will be prominently displayed for all customers to see. Some say this will force consumers to be more educated and aware about the meals they purchase. The hope is that this will prompt restaurants to make healthy changes to the food they serve, or else face serious sales problems when it comes to their most fattening items. Others claim it won’t make a noticeable difference, since for many, eating out is more about indulging than anything else. Only time will tell what effects the passed labeling proposal will have on the American diet.
A fast food chain’s nutritional pamphlet. This information will soon be much easier to notice and read.