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FDA Finalizes New Rules for Calorie Counts on Menus

09:00:00 AM

The FDA recently finalized two rules requiring foodservice operators to list calorie information on menus and provide customers with nutritional information about foods eaten away from home. The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required the new FDA labeling requirements.

The menu labeling rule applies to chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations that do business under the same name and offer substantially the same menu items for sale. Foodservice establishments will be required to clearly display calorie information on menus and menu boards, next to the name or price of an item. Seasonal, temporary menu items, daily specials, and condiments available on a table or counter are exempt from labeling requirements.

In addition to chain restaurants, the new labeling rules also affect food facilities in entertainment venues, such as amusement parks and movie theaters. In regards to vending machines, the rules require operators that own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie information for foods sold in the machines, with certain exceptions.

The FDA says these new rules will eliminate situations in which chain restaurants would have to meet different standards in different states. In the past some states and localities (such as New York City) had created their own labeling rules, which meant there was no universal standard. The new rules ensure that the same labeling standards will be followed by establishments across the country, and includes previously exempt establishments, such as entertainment venues and retail outlets like supermarkets.

The rules focus on restaurant-type food and made adjustments for multi-serving dishes such as pizza – it can be labeled by slice rather than the entire pie. The new rules also include certain alcoholic beverages served in food establishments and listed on menus, but it provides flexibility in how operators meet the requirement.

Menus and menu boards will also be required to include the statement “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary” in order to help consumers understand the calorie information in the context of a total daily diet.

Establishments are also required to provide written nutritional information about total calories, saturated fat, trans fat, total fat, calories from fat, sodium, cholesterol, fiber, protein, total carbohydrates, and sugars upon customer request.

Restaurants and retail food establishments have one year to comply with the new menu labeling rules, and vending machine operators will have two years to comply.

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