Last week, the FDA announced their final rulings on the much anticipated Restaurant Menu and Vending Machine Labeling Requirements. The rulings will require calories to be shown on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants and vending machines.
The FDA has issued these rulings in an effort to fight obesity. Nearly two-thirds of adults and one third of children are overweight or obese. Calories are the major contributor to weight gain. The FDA estimates that about a third of the total amount of calories consumed come from outside the home. It is expected that implementing these new food labeling laws will help consumers make better, more informed decisions about what they are eating.
Although the two rulings are grouped together in the FDA’s announcement, for restaurants and similar food establishments / and vending machines, I’d like to break them apart into two separate articles to help you better understand how they will affect your business.
In this article we will be answering your questions on the new Menu labeling requirements for Restaurants and other retail food establishments.
Who does this menu labeling rule apply to?The FDA refers to the establishments needing to comply as being ‘covered’ by this rule. Here is the criteria that describes the covered establishments:
A restaurant or similar retail food establishment that offers “restaurant-type food” and is part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items.
More information on the definitions of “restaurant –type foods and “chain of 20 or more locations” is below…
What are restaurant-type foods?
The FDA defines “restaurant-type foods” as foods that are usually eaten on the premises, while walking away, or soon after arriving at another location. Foods that would NOT be considered “restaurant-type foods” would be grocery type items that would normally be stored to be consumed later.
The FDA provides a helpful table that lists what would generally be defined as “restaurant-type foods.” You may find this table helpful if you are trying to determine whether or not your establishment sells “restaurant-type foods.”
What defines a chain of 20 or more…?
- “Locations” means a fixed position or site. This ruling would not apply to airlines, trains or busses because they do not stay in one spot.
- “Doing business under the same name” means they would share the same name as other establishments in the chain (regardless of individual franchises).
- “Offering for sale substantially the same menu items” means “offering for sale a significant proportion of menu items that use the same general recipe and are prepared in substantially the same way with substantially the same food components, even if the name of the menu item varies.”
This ruling also applies to other food services other than restaurants. Here are some examples the FDA gives: bakeries, cafeterias, coffee shops, convenience stores, delicatessens, ice cream shops, mall cookie counters, pizza take-out, grocery stores that sell deli sandwiches from a menu board, retail confectionary stores, superstores, and food services inside amusement parks, bowling alleys, and movie theatres.
Other than restaurants, who else is covered under this ruling and needs to comply?
When do you need to comply by?Restaurants or similar retail food establishments that are covered, need to comply by December 1, 2015.
Who does is NOT apply to or is NOT covered?This ruling does not apply to schools. Other examples of non-covered entities are: transportation carriers (like airplanes), food trucks or ice cream trucks.
If my establishment is NOT covered under this ruling, can I still comply?Yes, “restaurants and similar retail food establishments” that are not covered, or required to comply because they are not part of a chain of 20 or more – for example, may still voluntarily register under the federal government and comply. These restaurants would still remain subject to local and state nutrition labeling laws; however, registering under this ruling would preempt them from local and state menu labeling laws.
If I am already complying with my local, state menu labeling requirements, do I need to comply to this?If your establishment is ‘covered’ under this ruling; then YES, you would have to comply with these federal regulations.
Do the menu labeling requirements apply to all of my food items?Only “standard menu items” are required to comply with the food labeling rules. “Standard menu items” are “restaurant-type foods” that are routinely included on menu and menu boards or routinely offered as a self-service food or food on display.
Some foods that would NOT be considered “standard menu items” are: condiments, daily specials, custom orders, or market test foods. Also, the rule does not include liquor kept behind a bar which is used to make drinks.
Are alcoholic beverages covered under this ruling and need to comply?Yes, if it is a standard menu item listed in a menu or menu board. Some beers and wines may be clumped together in ranges - in some instances. However, bottles of alcohol kept behind a bar, which are used to make drinks, are not covered under this ruling.
What information MUST be provided for my menu items?The FDA states, “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.”
There are three items that must be displayed on menus or menu boards. They are:
- Number of Calories per menu item
- Succinct statement of daily caloric intake: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary”
- “Additional nutrition information available upon request” must be stated, as well
How should the “additional nutrition information” be displayed?The additional nutrition information must be available on the premises and should include: total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein.
There are different ways this information can be displayed, as long as it is made available on the premises. (ie: sign, brochure, counter card, electronic device, menu)
What is considered a “menu or menu board?”The FDA defines “menus and menu boards” as “the primary writing of the covered establishment from which a customer makes an order selection.” Some examples of these are: breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus; dessert menus; beverage menus; children’s menus; take out menus; online menus; drive through window menu board; menu board behind a counter.
Examples of items that would NOT be covered are a billboard, tray liner, or promotional items such as a coupon.
What is the layout for declaring the calories on menu boards?The number of calories should be stated per menu item or per serving for multiple serving items that are usually offered for sale in discrete units – providing the serving size and number of servings.
The calories should be placed as stated by the FDA:
- next to the name or the price of the associated standard menu item
- in a type size no smaller than that of the name or the price of the associated standard menu item, whichever is smaller
- in the same color, or a color at least as conspicuous as that used for the name of the associated standard menu item
- with the same contrasting background or a background at least as contrasting as that used for the name of the associated standard menu item
Self-service foods and foods on display must declare calories “per displayed food item” as it is offered for sale (ie: a muffin, or slice of pizza, a bagel) and not based on a different amount. In other words, a large muffin cannot be put into 2 servings. The calories must be displayed on a sign adjacent to and clearly associated with the food item. For example, on the sneeze guard.
How should the succinct statement be posted?The succinct statement should say, “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary” and should be placed as stated by the FDA below:
- prominently and in a clear and conspicuous manner
- in a type size no smaller than that of any calorie declaration appearing on the same menu or menu board
- in the same color or in a color at least as conspicuous as that used for the calorie declarations
- with the same contrasting background or a background at least as contrasting as that used for the calorie declarations
For children’s menus, the rule allows for the following succinct statements:
- "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."
How can I get the nutrition information that is required?First, the menu item’s recipe and serving size should be standardized and the covered establishment must take “reasonable steps to ensure the method of preparation and amount of standard menu item adheres to the factors on which the nutrient values were determined.” This means to not only use the same recipe but also make sure your portions are the same that you used to determine the nutritional information. Be consistent.
If there is not a nutrition facts label available for the finished menu item, then you will need to get the analysis done. There are two methods used to determine the nutritional value of a food:
- Data-base software analysis
- Laboratory Analysis
Data-base software is a less expensive method, compared to lab analysis, and only takes 1 to 2 business days to complete. Whereas, lab analysis can take up to 25 business days.
Not all menu items would need lab analysis. In fact, the majority of food items can be analyzed through the data-base using your detailed recipe.
Wondering if your recipes can use the data-base analysis? It would probably be best if you gave us a call. We would be happy to tell you more. Call us 7 days a week at: 877-753-6631.