No need to grab your own decoder ring to understand the final FDA menu labeling rules. We’ve done the hard work for you and here is a summary of the requirements for menu labeling from the FDA.gov website (docket and published comments). This summary is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all of the requirements, but only an overview of the regulations. You should obtain and review a complete copy of the regulations to make sure your organization is in compliance.
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, offering for sale substantially the same menu items and offering for sale restaurant-type foods. The law specifies that State or local governments cannot have nutrition labeling requirements for foods sold in establishments covered by the final rule, unless such requirements are identical to the federal requirements. Under the rule, consumers will have consistent nutrition information available to them whenever they eat out in covered establishments. In addition, companies that are covered by the requirements won’t have to display different nutrition labeling depending on the geographical location. Restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are not covered under the federal requirements would remain subject to applicable State or local nutrition labeling requirements, unless they choose to voluntarily register with FDA to comply with the federal nutrition labeling requirements.
Examples of restaurant-type foods that are included when sold by a facility that is part of a chain with 20 or more locations include:
Meals from sit-down restaurants
Foods purchased at drive-through windows
Take-out food, such as pizza
Foods, such as made-to-order sandwiches, ordered from a menu or menu board at a grocery store or delicatessen
Foods you serve yourself from a salad or hot food bar
Muffins at a bakery or coffee shop
Popcorn purchased at a movie theater or amusement park
A scoop of ice cream, milk shake or sundae from an ice cream store
Hot dogs or frozen drinks prepared on site in a convenience or warehouse store
Covered restaurants and similar retail food establishments are now required: (1) to disclose calorie information on menus and menu boards for standard menu items; (2) post a succinct statement (see below) concerning suggested daily caloric intake on menus and menu boards; and (3) post on menus and menu boards a statement that written nutrition information is available upon request. “Menus” and “menu boards” are defined as the primary writing of the covered establishment from which a customer makes an order selection. These include, but are not limited to, breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus; dessert menus; beverage menus; children’s menus; other specialty menus; electronic menus; and online menus. Primary writings must meet the 3 requirements to constitute a menu (item name/picture, price and a call to order at the time of viewing.) These rules do apply to any digital channel as well including online, apps and marketing materials. Calorie Declarations Covered establishments will list calorie information for standard menu items on menus and menu boards. An alcoholic beverage is a standard menu item that is listed on a menu or a menu board. In some instances, information may be presented in ranges for beer and wine rather than for each specific offering if generic classifications are used like Beer or Red Wine. If a brand can find a wine or beer count in the USDA database they can present wine and beer counts by section. For example, a wine list has several red wines listed. If a count can be found for Red Wine in the USDA database for 80 cal per glass, they can use that count for all their red wines listed. They can group all red wines under 1 sub header calorie declaration and would not need to list the individual count next to each wine. The nutrition labeling requirements do not apply to certain foods, including daily specials, temporary menu items appearing on the menu for less than 60 days per calendar year, custom orders, and food that is part of a customary market test appearing on the menu for less than 90 days under terms and conditions established by FDA. Covered establishments must declare calories for combination meals, which come with more than one food item, that are standard menu items. In general, the calorie declaration includes the total calories for all food items that make up the combination meal, and, the way the calories must be displayed depends on how many choices are listed on the menu or menu board for menu items in the combination meal. When the menu or menu board lists three or more choices for menu items in a combination meal (e.g., a sandwich with chips, a side salad, or fruit), the calories must be declared as a range, such as 450-700 calories. When the menu or menu board lists two choices for menu items in a combination meal (e.g., a sandwich with chips or a side salad), the calories must be declared as a slash, such as 350/450 calories. The number of calories contained in each standard menu item listed on the menu or menu board must be listed: (1) next to the name or the price of the associated standard menu item; (2) in a type size no smaller than that of the name or the price of the associated standard menu item, whichever is smaller; (3) in the same color, or a color at least as conspicuous as that used for the name of the associated standard menu item; and (4) with the same contrasting background or a background at least as contrasting as that used for the name of the associated standard menu item. The font style does not need to match according to FDA clarifications. The calorie counts must be rounded according to FDA rounding rules. For calories the rules are: Less than 5 calories can be expressed as 0, equal to or less than 50 calories rounded to the nearest 5, greater than 50 calories rounded to the nearest 10. Menu Statements In addition to listing calories, covered restaurants and similar retail food establishments will be required to post on menus and menu boards a short statement about daily caloric intake – “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” This statement is meant to enable consumers to understand the calorie information provided on menus and menu boards within the context of a total daily diet. It is to be placed on each page or spread of each menu in the same font size as the calorie declarations. A separate succinct statement may be used on children’s menus as a substitute for or in addition to the general succinct statement (“2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary”) designed to enable consumers to understand, in the context of a total daily diet, the significance of the calorie information provided on such menus. The rule allows the use of the following to be used on menus and menu boards targeted to children: "1,200 to 1,400 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice for children ages 4 to 8 years, but calorie needs vary." "1,200 to 1,400 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice for children ages 4 to 8 years and 1,400 to 2,000 calories a day for children 9 to 13 years, but calorie needs vary." A statement is required on menus and menu boards declaring that additional information is available to the guest. This only needs to appear on the first page of each menu that contains nutritional information: “additional nutrition information available upon request” The succinct statements must be posted: (1) prominently and in a clear and conspicuous manner; (2) in a type size no smaller than that of any calorie declaration appearing on the same menu or menu board; (3) in the same color or in a color at least as conspicuous as that used for the calorie declarations; and (4) with the same contrasting background or a background at least as contrasting as that used for the calorie declarations. Supplemental Nutrition Information: The following written nutrition information is required to be available to consumers upon their request: total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein. The written nutrition information can be provided on posters, tray liners, signs, counter cards, handouts, booklets and computers or kiosks. Nutrition calculators are an acceptable way to meet the requirement just as long as you provide the device in which the guest is viewing it in restaurant when requested. All 11 nutrients need to be rounded per the FDA rounding rules. Note: each nutrient has its own rounding rule. See this url for the rules: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm064932.htm
Restaurants will need to comply by May 7th, 2018
The law specifies that State or local governments cannot have nutrition labeling requirements for foods sold in establishments covered by the final rule, unless such requirements are identical to the federal requirements.
As required by statute, FDA’s final rule for nutrition labeling in chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments will provide consumers with clear and consistent nutrition information in a direct and accessible manner for the foods they eat and buy for their families. Posting calories on menus and menu boards and providing other nutrient information in writing in chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments will fill a critical information gap and help consumers make informed and healthful dietary choices.
An establishment covered by the menu labeling rule must have a reasonable basis for its nutrient content declarations. Nutrient content declarations can be based on information obtained from nutrient databases, cookbooks, laboratory analyses, the Nutrition Facts label, and other reasonable means. In addition, a covered establishment must take reasonable steps to ensure that the method of preparation and amount of a standard menu item adheres to the factors on which nutrient values were determined.