The FDA finalized its restaurant menu labeling guidance with the implementation of the FDA menu labeling ruling effective May 7, 2018. These new FDA menu labeling requirements specifically refer to restaurants and eating establishments that meet the criteria listed below. This new ruling is also known as the restaurant nutrition information law or the menu calorie labeling law. FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, M.D. states:
As of the May 2018 decision, this information will be required throughout the country as the FDA’s menu labeling rule is implemented. Consumers walking into eating establishments covered under the rule will know how many calories are in the foods they want to order.
In anticipation of this rule being enacted on May 7, 2018 (FDA menu labeling effective date), many chain restaurants and other retail eating establishments (e.g. MacDonald’s, Red Robin, Ruth’s Chris) have already implemented the requirements for restaurant menu labeling. All other restaurants that have not yet complied have until May 2019 to effectively meet the requirements of the law.
In summary, any restaurant chain, franchise or vending establishment with 20 or more locations operating under the same name with a same or similar menu offering is required to comply with FDA menu labeling requirements. Each location must clearly state on menus or menu boards the calorie information for each item as well as a notice that additional nutritional information is available upon request.
This is, however, only one component of a labeling overhaul that the FDA has undertaken. Its rules regarding changes to the Nutrition Facts Label and Serving Size are also in place and will by fully implemented by January 1, 2021.
From their announcement in September, 2017:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing to extend the compliance dates for the Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts label final rule and the Serving Size final rule from July 26, 2018, to Jan. 1, 2020, for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales. Manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales would receive an extra year to comply—until Jan. 1, 2021.
Earlier this year, the FDA published their Nutrition Innovation Strategy. It’s objective is to provide consumers with science-based and qualified health claims—meaningful claims that are understandable, and ones that they can trust. Commissioner Gottlieb asserts:
FDA’s new policy aims to provide all Americans with easier access to nutritious, affordable foods by arming consumers with information and encouraging the food industry to innovate in producing the healthier foods that today’s informed consumer wants. The Nutrition Innovation Strategy will modernize claims like “healthy” on food packages, modernize how we establish standards of identity for foods, make ingredient information on labels easier to decipher, help streamline the process for establishing qualified health claims on food labels, and encourage companies to reduce sodium in their products.
By making more substantive links between food and nutrition, key imperatives are emerging to ensure that claims are anchored to the latest nutritional science. An important element in this link is being transparent and rigorous in testing the food being offered to consumers by its providers and manufacturers. RL Testing Laboratory specializes in such testing and can be an effective partner for its clients who are on the forefront of implementing the new FDA guidelines.