Last month, the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") issued final rules that require restaurants, grocery stores, and other types of food businesses to list information regarding the caloric intake of food on their menus.  The purpose of the final rules is to provide consumers with more information about the nutritional value of the foods they choose to eat.

The final rules will apply to food businesses that have at least 20 locations.  With this requirement, the final rules will apply to many fast food restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, convenience stores, movie theaters, and even amusement parks.  Required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the new regulations will require these food establishments to "clearly and conspicuously display calorie information for standard items on menus and menu boards, next to the name or price of the item."  However, the menu labeling requirements do not apply to condiments available on a counter or any seasonal menu items.

Prior to releasing these final rules, the FDA considered more than 1,100 comments from the public.  Based on these comments, the FDA refined the final rules to focus more directly on "restaurant-type food," provided more time for food establishments to comply with the rule, and made other changes, including a revision that allows restaurants serving "multi-serving dishes" (like pizza) to label the caloric information by the slice, rather than the entire pizza.  The final rule also applies to certain types of alcoholic beverages due to the impact of alcohol on consumers' health.  Covered food businesses will also be required to make additional nutritional information, including total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, calories from fat, sodium, fiber, cholesterol, protein, and sugar, available upon request.  Food establishments have one year to comply with these new regulations.

Although many states and localities had already passed laws and regulations requiring caloric information to be listed on restaurant menus, these new federal regulations will standardize the menu labeling requirements for covered food establishments, therefore avoiding situations where restaurant chains have to comply with different requirements in different locations.

The FDA also released labeling requirements for vending machine operators that operate 20 or more vending machines.  Similar to the menu labeling requirements, covered vending machine operators will be required to disclose certain calorie information for the food sold within its machines.  These operators will have two years to comply with the new regulations.