As you may know, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a final rule regarding menu labeling regulations on December 1, 2014 with the rules going into effect on May 7, 2018. This menu labeling rule was introduced as part of the Affordable Care Act as a public health service and required food service establishments (fast food chains, chain restaurants, etc.) to display calorie counts on restaurant menus and have additional nutrition information available to customers who request it. You might already be familiar with calorie count menus that have been implemented by McDonald’s and Starbucks since 2014 due to New York City requiring nutritional information well before the FDA. Food service establishments that aren’t required to follow this new law are still able to voluntarily offer nutrition and calorie labeling as long as they follow the FDA’s standards. This is a great option for smaller businesses as well cafeterias in office buildings as more and more consumers expect calorie labeling to be a part of the standard menu offering. With Americans trying to make healthier choices to combat the obesity epidemic, calorie posting is a valuable asset for any location that offers food choices or has some sort of menu board. Displaying nutritional information gives consumers the opportunity to make lower calorie choices and possibly pay more attention to portion sizes while better managing their calorie intake.
Let’s start by saying which food service establishments are required by the FDA to follow the new nutrition labeling laws. The FDA refers to these as “covered establishments.” These are restaurants and other food establishments that sell restaurant-type food and are part of a chain with 20 or more fixed locations, do business under the same name, and offer menu items that are mostly the same across the board. Here are some examples of covered establishments:
Fast Food Restaurants
Retail food establishments
Food establishments that aren’t required by the FDA to follow the menu labeling laws can still voluntarily opt-in to be subjected to the federal requirements. If you wish to voluntarily register, you can fill out Form 3757 (https://www.fda.gov/downloads/aboutfda/reportsmanualsforms/forms/ucm239947.pdf ) on the FDA website and submit it to the FDA. You are to renew your registration every other year after you have implemented the federal requirements.
If you are voluntarily deciding to offer nutrition and calorie information to customers, it’s important to have an understanding of what food items you are required to offer menu labeling for. The FDA calls these items “restaurant-type foods”. The typical restaurant-type foods you will find on a cafeteria menu are:
Hot buffet foods
Foods ordered from a menu or menu board
Food on display
“Grab and go” items
Self-service food and beverages
All of these foods are required to have calorie content displayed and additional nutrition information must be available upon request.
There are foods that can be offered by cafeterias and food establishments that are specifically exempt form these menu labeling requirements. These items are:
Temporary menu items
Any food that is not on a menu board and not on display or self-service
The menu board must have the number of calories for foods that the FDA requires to be listed. The FDA also requires the succinct statement and the statement of availability appear on the bottom of the menu board. The succinct statement is as follows: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” The statement of availability is as follows: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”
The additional nutrition information that is provided upon customer request must include the following information:
Total calories (cal)
Total fat (g)
Saturated fat (g)
Trans fat (g)
The FDA requires this nutrition information to be substantiated by a reasonable basis which can be from any of the following:
Nutrition Facts labels
Other reasonable means (e.g., calculations)
Using a nutrient database is the quickest way to get your nutrition and calorie information, you will have access to the results the instant you sign-up. MenuCalc is a great nutrient database service that is offered at a low price.