January 19, 2018

FDA Finalizes Menu Labeling for Restaurants and Vending Machines

The FDA has finalized two rules requiring calorie information on menus and menu boards in retail food establishments, including chain restaurants, and vending machines with 20 or more locations. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told reporters “Strikingly, Americans eat and drink about a third of their calories away from home – often consuming less nutritious foods and also underestimating the calories that they eat. These final rules will give consumers more information when they are dining out and help them lead healthier lives.”

Food LabelLabeling foods is critical to help consumers make healthy food choices. These new rules provide a consistent standard across the country and may help reduce consumer confusion about this issue.

The proposed rules were released in 2011. The menu labeling will not apply to bars, deli foods, independent restaurants, food trucks, ice cream trucks, or airplane food. And restaurants can offer daily specials or seasonal menus, such as a holiday dinner, without this information.

Food sold at sit-down and fast food restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, and restaurant-type foods in certain grocery and convenience stores must be labeled with the calorie count per serving. Take out and delivery foods, such as pizza, are included, as is food purchased at drive-through windows and food you serve yourself from a salad bar. Alcoholic drinks must be labeled, and foods at places of entertainment, such as movie theaters, must include the calorie count.

The calorie count cannot be in smaller type than the name or price of the menu item for clarity, and so consumers notice the numbers. For salad bars and buffets the information must be displayed on signs near the foods. And the rule calls for this statement to be displayed near the food: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” Consumers can ask for more information on the foods they buy, such as calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat content, sodium content, sugars, fiber, and protein.

Grocery stores and convenience stores lobbied to be completely exempted from these rules. These rules were required under the Affordable Care Act that was passed into law under President Obama in 2010.

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