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Jan 05

Overview of FDA’s Final Menu and Vending Labeling Rules

Menu and Vending Labeling Rules

On November 25, 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized two rules requiring that calorie counts be listed on menus and menu boards in certain restaurants and vending machines (menu and vending labeling rules). The full text of the menu and vending labeling rules can be found here. The menu labeling rule applies to restaurants if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, and offering more or less the same menu items. The 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act established nutrition labeling on most foods, but food from restaurants was not covered under this Act. Rather, the menu and vending labeling rules were mandated by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Menu Labeling Rules

Under the new menu labeling rules, calorie counts must be displayed clearly and conspicuously, either next to the name or price of the item. In addition, the calorie count must be labeled in the same size and colored font as the associated food item. However, it must be noted that there are certain foods that are exempt from the calorie count requirements under the menu labeling rules. Condiments for general use, seasonal menu items, and daily specials are all exempt from having their calorie counts displayed. Establishments also must publish the following statement on their menus and menu boards, “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” In addition to calorie counts, and upon consumer request, restaurants are required to provide written nutrition information about total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein.

Even though many state and local governments have passed their own rules and regulations regarding calorie counts, FDA suggests that these federal rules preempt any local rules on the topic, unless the local rules are identical to the federal rules. However, restaurants and other establishments not covered by the federal rules may still be subject to state and local regulations regarding calorie counts. All menu and labeling rules must be met within one year by all covered restaurant entities. For additional information, the FDA has answered many of the frequently asked questions about the new requirements, accessible here.

Vending Labeling Rules

The new rule mandating calorie counts for vending machines (“vending labeling rule”) can be found here. This rule requires vending machine operators with 20 or more vending machines must disclose calorie information for foods sold from the vending machines. Vending machine operators have two years to comply with this rule. Failure to comply with the vending labeling rules will render covered vending machine food misbranded under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Navigating the menu and vending labeling rules can be a difficult task for any restaurant or vending machine operator.  If you would like to have your menu or website reviewed for compliance or if you think your restaurant or vending machine company is subject to these new menu and vending labeling rules and have questions about how to comply with FDA requirements, please contact us at contact@giannamore-law.com.

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