No need to grab your own decoder ring to understand the final FDA menu labeling rules. We’ve done the hard work for you and here are four (4) rules we don’t want to trip you up. If you are compelled to work through all the legal mumbo-jumbo, you can find the latest clarifications here.
The Succinct Menu/Menu Board Statement
In addition to calorie counts for each menu item and a short statement about daily caloric intake each menu and each set of menu boards must also contain this statement noting the availability of additional nutrition information, “Additional nutrition information available upon request.’’ This same statement must also appear on all take out menus. The “additional nutrition information” is the Nutrition Supplement and it must be available in restaurant, online and included in To Go orders if a guest requests it.
Providing the Nutrition Supplement
This required nutrition supplement means brands have to itemize 11 nutrient values for each menu item beyond calories and make the info available to all guests whether they dine in or take out. This can be done in written fashion and electronically. To make the supplement available digitally, each restaurant must provide an electronic device for viewing the detailed info. Access cannot be dependent on guests using their own devices. Housing this supplemental nutrition detail on your brand’s website, nutrition calculator, online ordering tool, and everyplace your menu is accessed for placing an order is ideal.
Sharing is Caring
If anyone asks you to substantiate your brand’s menu item nutrition info, you must share your nutrition analysis process and records. The FDA recommends that records of each item’s nutrition analysis and the method used for that analysis be retained at the corporate HQ for the full length of time items are on the menu. Brands have about 4-6 weeks following a request to produce the info. Keep in mind the nutrition info must be available as soon as an item appears on your menu. Test items available for less than 90 consecutive days and LTO items available for less than 60 days in a calendar year remain exempt. BTW, the FDA has made it clear that they will not review menus, menu boards, statements or supplements in advance of the rules going into effect.
You may before this is all said and done need a beverage. All beverages are also required to have calorie counts on all printed menus and menu displays including all wines, beers, spirits and cocktails. How calories are presented depends on how items are presented on menus. Individual beers, wines listed by the glass or bottle, or cocktails for example need individual calorie counts. If three (3) or more like items are represented under a general item name like BEER, then a range can be used. For example: BEER (70-120 Calories) …. $5.25.
Multiple implementation delays have left many brands hoping this whole requirement will disappear. As that is highly unlikely it is time to develop specific implementation plans and timelines. We suggest that brands allow time to test all revised menus and online content in order to fully assess and address any traffic and sales shifts. The full FDA regulation can be found here.