McDonald's announced on Wednesday that the company would begin posting the calorie content of its food items on all menus both inside and outside of its restaurants on Monday of next week. The move comes in advance of a federal mandate that may require restaurants to post calorie counts on menus beginning early next year, and will include all 14,000 of the chain's U.S. locations, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.
Some major cities, such as New York and Philadelphia, already require calorie information on restaurant menus, as does the state of California. The federal mandate is still pending.
Here is some of the key information to emerge regarding the decision by McDonald's and the push to display calorie counts on restaurant menus.
* Jan Fields, president of McDonald's USA, told the media on Wednesday that the move was a voluntary one by the company because McDonald's believes that "it will help educate customers," as quoted by the Associated Press.
* Fields also remarked that in places where it is required to display calorie counts next to food items, what people order has not appeared to change.
* The federal mandate that will require restaurant chains to display the calorie content of its menu offerings is part of the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama.
* The New York Times reported that the decision by McDonald's is expected to put pressure on other fast food chains to follow suit and post calorie counts on their menus ahead of the federal mandate.
* The announcement from McDonald's on Wednesday was paired with the introduction of several new items that will be appearing on its menus that the company says are intended to offer customers healthier food choices.
* Critics, including Sara Deon of consumer watchdog group Corporate Accountability International, took issue with the move, calling it purely a public relations maneuver, according to the New York Times report.
* Other outlets, including consumer advocacy group The Center for Science in the Public Interest, were quick to praise the fast food giant, saying that "It's a step that's important for McDonald's customers' health," as quoted by Dow Jones Newswires.
* The federal mandate that will require all restaurants chains with more than 20 locations to begin posting calorie counts on their menus is expected to take effect next year, according to the Dow Jones report. McDonald's has said that it will be monitoring the effect that posting calorie counts has on customers' choices, in order to determine whether or not the chain's menu options need to be altered.
Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.