Foodservice Equipment Reports

The FDA Unveils Finalized Menu Labeling Rules

On Nov. 25, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized two rules requiring that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, retail food operations, and vending machines to provide consumers with more nutritional information about the foods they eat outside of the home.

The final menu-labeling rule applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items.

The FDA said it considered more than 1,100 comments in drafting the rules, which were included in the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The National Restaurant Association applauded the announcement; the NRA was among more than 70 groups, including public health advocates, which called for a national menu labeling standard to supersede a growing patchwork of city and state standards.

The agency estimates that 1,640 chains nationwide, comprising 278,600 locations, are subject to the requirements. It has also estimated the cost of complying to be about $1,100 per location, including $1,800 per limited-service restaurant and less than $1,000 per full-service location.

As part of the requirement, menus and menu boards must include the statement: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” Children’s menus may note that they should have a smaller number of calories.

The rules apply to both restaurants and similar retail food establishments, including takeout stores such as pizza concepts. Grocery store salad bars and delis must also post the counts, as will coffee shops that sell muffins and movie theaters that serve popcorn. The rules also include alcoholic beverages that are part of the standard menu.

In addition to the calorie requirements, the FDA also is requiring restaurants to provide written nutritional information to be provided to customers on request about calories, fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and proteins.

The agency says restaurants will be able to get calorie counts from nutrient databases, cookbooks, laboratory analyses, the Nutrition Facts label and “other reasonable means.” Restaurants must take “reasonable steps” to ensure that the method of preparation and amount of food served adheres to the factors on which the values were determined.

Restaurants and similar retail food establishments will have one year to comply with the menu labeling requirements.