With only a few months before the FDA’s compliance date for menu labeling, the Trump administration has tweaked the guidelines in a way that will directly impact restaurants, supermarkets, and convenience stores.
The new guidelines under the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act still require restaurant chains of 20 locations or more to provide calorie and nutrition information for their menu items, but the changes should make it a little easier and more affordable for restaurants to implement calorie and nutrition information.
In order to help you get ready for the impending May 7, 2018, compliance date, let’s have a look at the latest changes made to the nutrition labeling guidelines and what they will mean for your food establishment.
How the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act Will Affect Your Restaurant
The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act makes three significant changes to the existing menu labeling guidelines. Let’s examine what each of them will mean for your establishment:
- Calorie Ranges
Many restaurants offer multiple variations on a menu item, like pizza or sandwiches. While the old labeling guidelines required that each variation had to be accompanied by an accurate calorie statement, the new act does not. Instead, restaurants and food establishments may use either a calorie range or an average calorie amount for those items. You may also just provide the calorie counts for one variant (i.e. pepperoni pizza), as it will represent a standard or reference point for the others.
If using a calorie range or average for similar items on your menu, you will still need to determine the calorie counts for each individual item, which will cost the same amount of money and require the same amount of effort. In this case, it isn’t that much more work to add distinct calorie counts for each item to your menu. Plus, your diners may appreciate having accurate amounts for each item. If budget is a concern, though, just analyzing one variant and using that as a reference point for the other items can be a good strategy for saving money.
- Displaying Calories Counts
While the old nutrition labeling guidelines required that all restaurants and food establishments had to list calorie counts on their physical menus and menu boards, you may not need to under the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act.
If the majority of orders for your food are done without the customer present at the physical location of your restaurant (i.e. by phone or online), as would be the case for a pizza establishment that primarily fills takeout orders, you do not need to provide written calorie information on menus or menu boards. You do, however, need to provide calorie information for your menu items on your website so customers have that information when they place their orders.
- 90-Day Compliance Window
Owners of restaurants and food establishments will likely be happy to hear that the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act will grant a grace period of 90 days to those who violate the labeling laws. This means that if your establishment fails to properly comply to the menu labeling laws in some way and receives notice of violation, you have 90 days to make the necessary changes before enforcement action is taken.
It’s also important to note that the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act accounts for “human error” in calorie calculations and food preparations, which protects businesses from legal action if the calories aren’t entirely representative of the food item. It is, however, still important to do your best to provide your customers with the most accurate information.
Using Online Nutrition Analysis Software to Comply
While these components of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act may save restaurants some time and effort when it comes to obtaining and implementing calorie counts on their menus, there are other ways to make calorie labeling as easy as possible for your business.
Using an online nutrition analysis software to obtain calorie counts is perhaps the best thing you can do for your establishment. Not only is it much less expensive than other methods of nutrition analysis—such as food lab analysis, independent consulting, or CD-ROM analysis—but online software also has many other benefits.
With FDA-compliant software like MenuCalc, all you have to do is create an account, enter your recipes, and watch as the calories and nutrition information instantly generate. It’s particularly great if you have a menu with several variations of a particular item, like pizzas or sandwiches, because our nifty duplicate function allows you to create a copy of an existing recipe and change up some ingredients without re-entering all the ingredients over and over. This is a quick and easy way to get the information you need to provide calorie ranges, averages, or individual calorie counts for each variation of a menu item.
Plus, if you do receive a letter from the FDA informing you that you have violated the labeling laws, you can simply sign into your account, reanalyze your food items, and implement the changes as quickly as possible.
Hopefully, this will be the last round of changes to the food labeling guidelines before the compliance date, but keep checking on our blog for any last minute updates. In the meantime, if you haven’t started analyzing your menu items and compiling calorie information, now is a good time to start—May 7th will be here before we know it!
MenuCalc’s online nutrition analysis software makes FDA menu labeling compliance as simple and affordable as possible. To learn more about our software or to create an account, contact us today.