FDA Rule Requiring Calorie Counts on Menus Goes Into Effect

It's official, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule requiring that chains with at least 20 or more stores label their menus with the calories of each menu item, even beverages is in effect as of Monday. 

Restaurants are not the only food and beverage establishments subjected to the new rule either, movie theaters and bars with at least 20 chains must also oblige. 

While several restaurant chains, especially those trying to appeal to health-conscious consumers, were happy to implement this rule, some have been fighting hard against the law.

Included in the Obama-era 2010 Affordable Care Act, the FDA argues that the calorie count rule helps to foster healthy lifestyles. Before this, calorie-counters at most restaurants had to estimate the nutritional value of what they were eating.

“By having information about the calories in food, you can make more informed decisions about the food you eat — decisions that can help improve your overall health and that of your family,” said the FDA. “And it’s just as important that you and your family have access to this information when eating out, as you do at home when you are able to look at calorie counts on food packages.”

The FDA is hoping to improve the obesity rate in the U.S. Currently, 40 percent of the population is obese. 

“For consumers who want to consume fewer calories, having calorie and other nutrition information available has the potential to save and improve lives,” said Susan Mayne, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

So will the menu labeling really make a difference in how many calories Americans will eat?

Some studies have proven that calorie counts don't impact consumer behavior. But it really depends on the guest.

“I look at it to make sure it’s not overly high,” said a 48-year-old guest at Panera to "NBC News." “I like to keep it at around 500 calories, usually. You’ve got three meals a day and you get 1,500 to 2,000 calories for a day.”

   New Taco Bell menu with calorie counts

New Taco Bell menu with calorie counts

“There's a lot more things I think we need to do because consumers are demanding more and more information from their food and their drink,” said Kristin Kirkpatrick, Cleveland Clinic nutritionist to "NBC News." “But it definitely is going to reveal a little bit more and we'll see — time will tell if it will change behavior.”

And how will this ultimately affect restaurants? 

Well, there's the additional investment in research to determine the accurate calorie count of all menu items. 

Then there are the smaller chains, that although they are not subjected to the 20 stores or more rule, they will likely follow-suit when customers become used to the menus with calorie counts. 

What do you think about the menu labeling guideline? Is it a necessary evil to make Americans more healthy? Or is it an unnecessary hassle for operators?

Read more about the FDA rule at "NBC News."