Although most prominent for its overhaul of national healthcare insurance rules, as part of its overall dedication to the improvement of American health, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) also mandated regulations governing food labeling requirements in an effort to promote conscious, and hopefully healthier, food choices by American consumers.  As its core directive on this issue, the ACA required the posting of calorie and other nutrition information for food items sold at restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain of twenty (20) or more locations doing business under the same name and offering the same or substantially similar menu items.  Similarly, subject to certain exceptions, all vending machine operators who own or operate more than 20 vending machines must disclose the calorie information for their goods. 

On November 25, 2014, the United States Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) finally released its regulations implementing the ACA’s nutrition labeling provisions.  (See 21 CFR Parts 11 and 101, final rules to be published December 1, 2014)  Until official publication of the rules, you can access a copy of the FDA’s guidance here now: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2014-27833.pdf.  The new FDA rules do a number of things, including:

  • Declares the types of establishments that are subject to the rules (watch out, there are some potentially surprising inclusions, such as movie theatres and bakeries);
  • Establishes what foods are subject to the nutrition labeling requirements;
  • Requires menus and menu boards to list calorie information and suggested daily caloric intake information;
  • Requires operators to maintain basic written nutrition information for standard menu items and provide them at a consumer’s request;
  • Establishes guidelines for determining and substantiating the nutrient content of menu items;
  • Establishes methods of compliance for vending machine operators;
  • Establishes terms and conditions for voluntary compliance by restaurants or similar retail food outlets that would not otherwise be subject to mandatory compliance with the rules

The new rules go into effect for covered restaurants on December 1, 2015, and for covered vending machines on December 1, 2016.