With the menu labeling compliance date rapidly approaching, I’m getting flooded with questions. It’s a really exciting time for the industry. One of the questions I’ve been getting asked the most is whether or not restaurants should use health claims on their menu.
There seems to be a bit of confusion about what health claims are, as some people are mixing them up with nutrient content claims. So, I want to explain the difference between restaurant health claims and nutrient content claims, talk about which one makes sense to include on your menu, and walk you through the benefits of including extra nutrition information on your menu.
Restaurant Health Claims or Nutrient Content Claims?
Here’s the scoop. Health claims, as explained by the FDA, link specific food products or ingredients with a reduced risk of disease or negative health conditions. There are two types of health claims: authorized and qualified. Authorized health claims have significant scientific agreement, such as how a certain amount of vitamin D and calcium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Qualified health claims, on the other hand, don’t have the same caliber of scientific backing but can still be used under certain circumstances.
I don’t want to go too far into health claims because it’s a bit of a difficult process to use them, and they are more commonly used on packaged foods as opposed to restaurant menus. Instead, nutrient content claims are more commonly used in restaurants, and that’s what I would recommend you choose.
Nutrient content claims are widely used on food labels but are also used in restaurant settings as a way of helping health-conscious diners decide what to order. Typically, they refer to the amount of a nutrient in a product or menu item. Examples of nutrient content claims include “low calorie,” “high fiber,” and “free of saturated fat.”
Stating that a menu item contains a significant percentage of a particular nutrient’s recommended Daily Value is also considered a nutrient content claim. “Contains 80% of the Daily Value of vitamin A” is an example of a percentage nutrient content claim that may appear on a menu.
Since the FDA regulates nutrient content claims, nutrient levels in the menu item in question must fall within the nutrient content claim guidelines set by the FDA. In addition, make sure you are able to back up the claim. You can do this by including the appropriate nutrient amounts in the additional nutrition information you are required to provide diners with upon request if your establishment is subject to the menu labeling laws.
How Do I Know if my Menu Items Qualify for Nutrient Content Claims?
Many restaurants shy away from using nutrient content claims because it is tedious to go through each of your menu items to see if they qualify for any claims. There is, however, a simple way to find out if your menu items qualify. Some online nutrition analysis software, like MenuCalc, comes with nutrient content claim features. As such, they will automatically determine if your recipe qualifies for any claims, such as low-fat, low-calorie, low in saturated fat, low sodium, and low sugar.
So, if you still need to analyze your recipes for the May 7, 2018, menu labeling compliance date, I’d recommend choosing a software with this feature. That way, you can get everything done in one place without spending extra time or money figuring out if your items qualify for nutrient content claims.
Why Use Nutrient Content Claims?
There are several advantages to including nutrient content claims on your menu, such as:
- Increases transparency: Including claims like “saturated fat-free” or “no sugar added” to menu items provides diners with a great deal more information than they are used to having at restaurants. As such, this makes your restaurant seem more transparent and honest with its diners, especially when combined with calorie information.
- Helps diners make informed choices: It’s sometimes hard for customers to tell what items on a menu are right for their individual diets. Including nutrient content claims will flag items for diners who are concerned about their health so they can make fully informed choices about what they eat.
- Shows your restaurant is health-conscious: With obesity and related diseases on the rise, more people are becoming concerned about what they eat. Including nutrient content claims and designing a healthy menu shows your customers that you care about the kind of food you serve. It also makes it easier to accommodate diners’ specific dietary needs.
- Attract new customers: Once word gets out that your menu has a variety of low-calorie, high protein, and sugar-free options, you may find that your business increases. There are so many people out there on special diets who have a hard time dining out. If you can make it easier for them to choose a menu item that fits their preferences, you’re likely to gain some new loyal customers.
I hope this clarifies some of the confusion around providing health claims and nutrient content claims on your restaurant menu. There is a lot to think about in the coming months with the menu labeling compliance date fast approaching, but if you use the right online software, it won’t be any extra work to include nutrient content claims on your menu. Plus, the software is incredibly easy to use, so you can have your calorie counts, your nutrient content claims, and your additional nutrition information all ready to go well before May.
MenuCalc is an industry-leading, affordable, and user-friendly online nutrition analysis software that automatically analyzes your recipes for qualifying nutrient content claims. Contact us today to get started.