Menu Labeling Compliance Extensions Announced

The FDA has filed an interim final rule that extends the menu labeling compliance date to May 7, 2018. This extension comes after businesses have raised concerns with the FDA on the lack of flexibility with the regulation and confusion over self-serve foods. From now until July 3, 2017, the FDA is inviting comments on the implementation of the menu labeling regulations. They are specifically looking for comments on how to reduce the regulatory burden, increase flexibility with the methods used for calorie disclosures for self-service foods, and establish criteria for distinguishing between menus and other information provided to customers such as advertising.

With another delay in the compliance date, it is a great time to make sure you have all the required information for the new menu labeling regulations. Restaurants and retail food establishments that have 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offer essentially the same menu items must have calories labeled on their menu or menu board. These businesses also must have a statement concerning suggested calorie intake and have nutrition information on hand for their menu items.

Are you still in the process of adding calorie declarations to your menu or menu board?

In the final regulation, FDA specifies that covered foods are “food that is usually eaten on the premises, while walking away, or soon after arriving at another location” and is either “served in the establishment or processed and prepared primarily in the establishment”. This includes menu items from sit-down, take out, or drive-thru restaurants, self-service food, and food ordered from a menu or menu board at a grocery store. Self-service food includes more than just buffets and salad bars; bakery items such as muffins and donuts that customers take from the case, self-serve frozen yogurt, and fountain drink machines that are available to the customers are also covered by this rule.

The amount of calories must be listed adjacent to the price of the menu item. The term “Calories” or “Cal” must be placed before the number of calories and must be the same font size as the calorie amount. The font size for the calorie amounts listed should not be smaller than the name and/or price, whichever is smaller.

Including the calories for each product is only one of three steps you will have to take to be compliant with the menu labeling regulation. The second step is to include a statement that allows customers to understand the calorie amount in the context of a daily diet. This statement must say “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” Make sure you post this statement prominently, on the bottom of the menu or menu board, and in a type size no smaller than the smallest type size used for any calorie declarations on the same menu.

The third step you will need to take is to have full nutrition information available for each menu item and include the statement “Additional nutrition information available upon request”. This statement must be placed prominently, in a type size no smaller than the smallest type size used for calorie labeling on the same menu or menu board, and must be immediately above, below or beside the statement concerning suggested calorie intake. While the calorie intake statement must be located on the bottom of every menu page, the nutrition information availability statement only has to appear on the first page of the menu. The nutrition information you need to have on hand is the total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars, and protein.

If your food service facility is covered by this rule, it is important to make sure that you have posted all the required information and have the additional information on hand. If you don’t have everything you need or have questions about the regulations, the FDA has published Guidance for Industry that answers some common industry questions or you can reach out the Food Labeling Experts at AIB International.

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