That Caesar salad you're about to eat? It's 800 calories, and that's without the croutons. You may choose to ignore the numbers, but soon it's going to be tough to deny you saw them: A requirement tucked into the health care bill will make calorie counts impossible for thousands of restaurants to hide and difficult for consumers to overlook. More than 200,000 fast food and other chain restaurants will have to include calorie counts on menus, menu boards, and even drive-thrus.
The new law, which applies to any restaurant with 20 or more locations, directs the FDA to create a new national standard for menu labeling within the next year, superseding a growing number of state and city laws. The idea is to make sure that customers process the calorie information as they are ordering by posting it directly on the menu: Many restaurants currently display nutritional information in a hallway, on a hamburger wrapper, or on their website.