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The Calorie-Labeling Saga — Federal Preemption and Delayed Implementation of Public Health Law

May 24, 2018

The New England Journal of Medicine,

Jason P. Block,

May 23, 2018-

Passing the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a landmark event in health care policy. The ACA’s scope also went beyond health care. Included among myriad health insurance reforms and coverage expansions was Section 4205, a federal requirement for food-establishment chains with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on menus. After 8 years of waiting, calorie labeling was finally implemented on May 7, 2018. How did this law come to be, and why did it take so long to go into effect?

The federal calorie-labeling law was the climax of rapid-fire state and municipal policy action that began in 2006 in New York City. When the 2010 law passed, calorie labeling had already been implemented in New York City (2008), Seattle (2009), and Philadelphia (2010). Several states had passed laws that had yet to be implemented, and others had proposed calorie-labeling legislation. These policies had differing labeling requirements and covered a variable number of retail chains.

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