Top 10 Things To Know About The New Menu Labeling Regulations

You’ve probably heard by now that restaurants nationwide will have to begin labeling calories as part of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new menu labeling regulations. Your operation may even be one that will need to comply with these new regulations. Although it took the FDA more than three years to make their final decision on menu labeling, the new regulations will be enforced starting December 1, 2015, leaving only a few more months to get everything in order.

Here are the top 10 things you need to know about the new guidelines:

  •  Along with the number of calories for an item, restaurants will be required to post a statement explaining the significance of those calories as part of one’s daily diet. An example provided by the FDA is “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”
  • Additional nutrition information must be available upon request. This information could include information on total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars and protein.
  • All foodservice establishments with 20 or more national units must comply with the new regulations. This could include restaurants, bakeries, cafeterias, convenience stores, grocery stores, movie theatres, concession areas and foodservice vendors.
  • To comply, businesses must use nutrient databases, laboratory analyses, cookbooks, retail labels on packaged foods or FDA/USDA nutritional data to evaluate the nutrition information of their menu items.
  • For items with multiple serving dishes, such as pizza, calories must be declared for the whole menu item or they can be listed per discrete serving unit as long as the number of units are declared on the menu.
  • Calories for toppings must be separately declared for each topping on the menu; however, similar items can be listed as a singular calorie declaration.
  • For buffets, calories must be displayed per food item as if it is not offered in discrete units. The calories must be visible on a sign adjacent to the food item with the calorie declaration and serving unit used to determine the calorie content.
  • A separate final rule  was issued for disclosing calorie information of foods sold in vending machines. Those owning and operating 20 or more machines will be subject to the ruling, with certain exemptions, and will be required to comply with the regulations within two years.
  • For vending machines, the FDA suggests placing signs – such as a small placard, sticker or poster – near the food item or selection button. Electronic or digital displays may also be used.
  • The following menu items are not subject to these regulations: condiments, daily specials, custom orders, temporary menu items and custom market test foods. The goal of these regulations is to help consumers make informed, healthier choices when eating away from home by providing clear and consistently presented nutrition information. In light of the recent release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report, these regulations take on additional importance for the health of the nation.

While fat content may not be prominently displayed on menu boards, health-conscious consumers may ask to review the required additional nutrition information to help make their purchasing decision.

To see how Omega-9 Oils can help improve the nutrition profile of your menu and packaged food items, try out our Healthier Frying Oil Calculator and the Oil Opportunity Cost Quiz. Check out the Culinary Institute of America’s series on how and why canola should be in your professional kitchen. Or, if you’re ready to make the switch, contact us today or find a supplier near you.