In Calorie Counts on Menus, FDA Regulations
menu labeling final rule

Covered establishments are restaurants and other retail food establishments that sell restaurant-type food and are part of a chain with 20 or more locations that do business under the same name and offer food for sale that are essentially the same menu items.

As a restaurant owner, you are probably aware of the final rule published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014. What you might not know are all the intricacies of the ruling and what is required by restaurants and business that fall under the “covered establishments” umbrella. If you’re a restaurant or business that isn’t considered a “covered establishment” you can still opt-in to the menu labeling final rule. Choosing to opt-in to the requirements is a great way to offer general nutrition advice in the way of calorie counts to consumers who visit your establishment, provided you are following the FDA’s guidance.

Final Rule

The FDA published the final rule for menu labeling on December 1, 2014 with a compliance date of May 5, 2017. The FDA then extended the deadline to May 7, 2018 to further allow comments on ways to reduce regulatory costs or increase the flexibility of the requirements.

The FDA refers to businesses that must follow the requirements as “covered establishments.” Covered establishments are restaurants and other retail food establishments that sell restaurant-type food and are part of a chain with 20 or more locations that do business under the same name and offer food for sale that are essentially the same menu items. The FDA provides a list of possible locations that might qualify as a covered establishment. Just because an establishment is on this list doesn’t mean that it’s a covered establishment, it must meet the other FDA requirements.

  • Chain Restaurants (quick service and sit-down)

  • Fast-food restaurants

  • Grocery and convenience stores

  • Food takeout facilities and delivery services

  • Entertainment venues

  • Cafeterias

  • Coffee shops

  • Superstores

  • Some managed food service operations

Voluntary Registration

With Americans becoming more health-conscious and seeking calorie information, it might be a good idea to opt-in to the menu labeling regulations even though your business does not fall into the covered establishment definition. If you choose to opt-in to the FDA regulations, your menu labeling must meet the FDA guidelines and you must voluntarily register. You must fill out the this FDA form and renew your registration every other year. The FDA allows you to submit this form one of three ways:

  • Emailing CalorieLabeling@fda.hhs.gov with the subject line “FDA Form 3757”;

  • Fax to 301-436-2636; or

  • Mail to FDA, CFSAN Menu and Vending Registration, Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling, HFS-800, 5001 Campus Drive, College Park, MD 20740

Menu Labeling Requirements

If you are the owner of a covered establishment or choose to voluntarily opt-in to the menu labeling requirements, the FDA has a set of guidelines that you must follow to be in compliance. The most general menu labeling requirement is that your standard menu items must have calorie information displayed on menu and menu boards, this includes food that is on display and food that is self-service.

The FDA also requires a “succinct statement and a statement of availability. The succinct statement must appear on the bottom of menu boards and at the bottom of each page of a multi-page menu and is as follows: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” The statement of availability must appear on the bottom of the first page of a menu and at the bottom of menu boards and is as follows: “Additional nutrition information available upon request.”

The additional nutrition information that is provided by customer request must include the following information:

  • Total calories (cal)

  • Total fat (g)

  • Saturated fat (g)

  • Trans fat (g)

  • Cholesterol (mg)

  • Sodium (mg)

  • Totalcarbohydrate(g)

  • Dietaryfiber (g)

  • Sugars (g)

  • Protein (g)

If the FDA requests so, the establishment must supply the FDA with the way the establishment substantiated the nutrition values. One way to gather nutrition information and calorie counts is by using a nutrient database like MenuCalc. MenuCalc offers a $49 a month option that is perfect for independent restaurants that are looking to get started with offering nutritional information and calorie counts.

MenuCalc is an industry-leading recipe analysis tool used by many restaurant, cafe, and convenience store owners. To start a free trial or learn more, contact us today.

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