McDonald's to Put Calories on Menu Boards

Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan


To its credit, McDonald's is getting out in front of the other big burger chains and most other restaurants by putting calorie counts on its menu boards and drive-through menus—even before the federal requirement to do so kicks in. It's a step that's important for McDonald's customers' health, and it's a sign that calorie counts on chain-restaurant menus are here to stay.

McDonald's announcement won't be noticed by folks in New York City, California, and Vermont, for instance, where laws already require calorie labeling in chain restaurants. And companies like Panera Bread and Au Bon Pain are already posting calorie counts. Though not all studies are able to measure an effect of menu labeling, bigger studies show that calorie labeling is helping consumers make lower calorie selections when eating out. And perhaps most importantly, calorie labeling is encouraging companies to reformulate products.

If the biggest restaurant chain on Earth can cheerfully announce that it'll put calorie counts on menu boards, the Food and Drug Administration should take notice. The Administration should issue final menu labeling rules that include vending machines, restaurant-style foods sold at supermarkets, convenience stores, and movie theaters, and not give in to every special interest that doesn't want to play by these same rules.

It's terrific that McDonald's is testing new healthier menu options. Good nutrition didn't matter much at restaurants in the past when eating out was an occasional treat. But with Americans now getting about a third of their calories outside the home, people need more options that are healthy, appealing, and competitively priced.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at] or Ariana Stone (astone[at]