The Food and Drug Administration has released the final version of its menu labeling rules that instruct restaurants, grocery stores, and vending machine operators on how to list calorie information on menus.
“Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home and people today expect clear information about the products they consume,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement about the final rules. “Making calorie information available on chain restaurant menus and vending machines is an important step for public health that will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.”
The guidance finalizes a 2010 proposal issued by the FDA in accordance with Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which amended the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
Establishments with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering substantially the same menu items – including fast-food restaurants, grocery stores, and movie theaters – are covered under one rule; a second rule applies to the operators of vending machines.
Covered entities must “clearly and conspicuously” declare the number of calories for each standard menu item as it is typically prepared, and present the calorie information and the suggested caloric intake in the context of an overall diet. Menus and menu boards are required to include the following statement: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”
Seasonal items, daily specials, and condiments are exempt.
The final rule requires that covered establishments provide additional nutrition information in writing upon request. The information must include the total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein contained in a product.
The agency said it made some changes based on the more than 1,100 comments to its proposal. For example, labeling is now allowed for individual servings of multiserving dishes, such as pizza by the slice. In a controversial move, the FDA also added alcoholic beverages that are listed on the menu in covered establishments.
To read the final food labeling rule for covered establishments, click here.
To read the final food labeling rule for vending machines, click here.
Why it matters: The final rules were issued later than originally expected, and the FDA is allowing covered entities more time to achieve compliance. Restaurants and other establishments will have one year to comply, while vending machine operators were given two years.