The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act passed in March 2010, brought about menu calorie labeling. Restaurants and food vendors with more than 20 locations must disclose calorie information and make other nutrient composition data available to consumers. Consumers will now have a wider availability of calorie and other nutrient information than what was previously available. This labeling will also make a contribution to consumer’s efforts to enhance and maintain health. Having a federal approach to regulating menu labeling helps ensure consistency, and creating efficiencies for restaurants. The success of restaurant menu labeling to help improve nutrient intakes and reduce the rates of obesity will depend on how the consumers respond to the information.
Food manufacturers and producers have been required to provide standardized information for the Nutrition Facts Label since the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 passed. Freshly prepared, institutional, and restaurant foods weren’t required to carry this information before. Some local governments have mandated nutrition information on menu items of multi unit restaurants. In 2008, many different chain restaurants were sued in for inaccurate information on menus by usually underreporting calories and fat. Today all foodservice industries are under pressure to provide nutrition facts.
True nutrient or nutrition analysis refers to an assay of select nutrients done by laboratory analysis using incinerated ash or chemical extraction to determine content. Newer techniques are used for extraction of bioactive chemicals. True nutrient analysis is usually used when precise data are essential, when the analysis will be entered into databases to be widely used, when nutrition claims will be made, when there are gaps in nutrient data, or when it’s impossible to obtain data by calculation. The disadvantages of this are the expense, collection of appropriate number and type of samples, and time needed to perform the analysis.
Most registered dietitians and dietetic technicians use computerized databases for estimating the nutrient content of foods. Some practitioners refer to the process as nutrition analysis by calculation or by database. Nutrient calculation software offers ease, speed, and reduced cost but is less accurate than true nutrient analysis.
Source: Marr, Liz. “National Restaurant Menu Labeling Legislation: Public Nutrition Education and Professional Opportunities.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association (2011). Print.