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New Rules Regarding Menu and Nutrition Panel Labeling

The FDA now requires the disclosure of certain nutrition info for restaurant menus.

These new rules will require foodservice operators and manufacturers to revamp their menus and labels.

May 2017 update: The FDA is extending the compliance date for the menu labeling requirements. Now, restaurants and other foodservice establishments have until May 8, 2018 to comply. Get more details on this extension.

In order to provide dining consumers with easily accessible nutrition information the nutrition-labeling provisions mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires the disclosure of certain nutrition information for standard menu items in restaurants.

In addition, FDA is amending its labeling regulations for conventional foods to provide updated nutrition information on the label to assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices. The new labeling requirements are meant to correspond to new scientific information regarding nutrition and consumption patterns.

Why the need for nutrition info on menus

Nutrition Labeling Provisions: What You Need To Know

The FDA now requires disclosure of certain nutrition information for standard menu items in restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. These businesses will be required to provide calorie and other nutrition information for standard menu items, including food on display and self-service food. Under ACA provisions, restaurants not covered by the law may elect to become subject to these requirements by registering every other year with FDA. The goal of the rule is to require foodservice businesses to provide clear and consistent nutrition information to enable consumers to make informed and healthful dietary choices. This rule was originally to become effective on December 1, 2015, but the compliance date for the rule was extended to May 5, 2017.

To be covered by this rule, a business must satisfy several criteria. First, it must be a restaurant or similar retail food establishment—categories which include bakeries, cafeterias, coffee shops, foodservice facilities located within entertainment venues (amusement parks, bowling alleys, movie theaters and so forth), foodservice vendors such as ice-cream shops and mall cookie counters, food takeout and/or delivery establishments, quick-service restaurants, and table-service restaurants.

The rule includes, among others, provisions that:

  • Establish which foods are subject to the nutrition labeling requirements and which foods are not;
  • Require that calories for standard menu items be declared on menus and menu boards that list such foods for sale;
  • Require that calories for standard menu items that are self-service or on display be declared on signs adjacent to such foods;
  • Require that written nutrition information for standard menu items be available to customers who ask to see it; and
  • Require, on menus and menu boards, a succinct statement concerning suggested daily caloric intake, designed to help customers understand the significance of the calorie declarations.

Same look, new information requirements

On May 20, 2016, the FDA announced the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to reflect new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The new label is supposed to make it easier for consumers to make better-informed food choices. The final rule became effective on July 26, 2016. However, the compliance date for this rule is July 26, 2018, for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales and July 26, 2019, for manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales.

The look of the label remains the same, but the declaration of “Calories from fat” is to be removed because current science indicates that the type of fat is more relevant than overall total fat intake, and the prominence of the term “Calories” is to be increased. In addition, the declaration panel must include the gram amount of “added sugars” in a serving of a product, and “Includes `X’ g Added Sugars” must be indented and declared directly below “Total Sugars” on the label. This rule also updates the list of nutrients that are required or permitted to be declared and requires the maintenance of records to support the declarations of certain nutrients under specified circumstances.

Current Nutrition Label vs. New Nutrition Label

What’s the bottom line? These new rules will require foodservice operators and manufacturers to revamp their menus and labels, but presumably these changes will lead to a healthier public.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and is no substitute for an actual consultation with a lawyer. Always consult your lawyer regarding your specific circumstances.