Foodservice Equipment Reports

FDA’s Menu Labeling Proposal Released

Menu labeling requirements proposed April 1 by the Food and Drug Administration will require chain restaurants as well as bakeries, grocery stores, c-stores and coffee chains with 20 or more locations to clearly post the calorie count for each item on their menus.

The new rules will apply to menus and menu boards in restaurants and those posted in drive-through lanes. While many quick-service chains are already posting nutritional information, other market segments—including high-end and casual dining eateries—will now also feel the impact of calorie disclosure. So will the operators of vending machines if calorie information isn't already visible on the package. However, the FDA is recommending that businesses whose primary focus is not on selling food, including movie theaters, airplanes or bowling alleys, be excluded from the requirements.

The proposal suggests how the menu labeling provision, which became law in March 2010, should be implemented in the restaurant industry. After a 60-day comment period, which began April 1, the FDA said it hopes to issue the final rules by the end of the year and proposes they become effective six months later.

Included in the proposal is a suggestion that restaurants be required to post a guide to “appropriate caloric intake” for consumers. Such a reference would "help the public understand the significance of the calorie information provided."  Full nutritional information, such as fat, cholesterol and sodium content, would have to be available upon request.

Menu labeling, which would apply to an estimated 280,000 establishments, is required under 2010’s health overhaul legislation. The regulation is designed to give restaurant diners the kind of information they can find on packaged food products.. The FDA estimates that a third of calories are consumed by eating out. The National Restaurant Association has been lobbying for a nationwide regulation that would override the current patchwork of state and local laws. "The publication of the proposed regulations in the Federal Register today is the next step forward in providing the industry with consistent, national requirements on how to implement the new uniform nutrition information standard," Dawn Sweeney, NRA president and CEO, said in a statement.

The 183-page proposal includes details about how restaurants could calculate and show nutrition data for items such as combination meals, self-service beverages, pizzas with varied toppings, food at salad bars, buffets and cafeteria lines, bakery items on display buffets and daily specials and explains why alcohol is not included in the calorie count. You can read more at www.restaurant.org/menulabeling.

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