News for April 2012

Apr 20, 2012 | Legislation

Friday, April 1st the FDA released it’s proposed guidelines for Restaurant Menu Labeling. The complete guideline includes a 183 page document for restaurants and a 68 page document for vending machine operators. Both can be found at our website Also available is the address to send feedback to the FDA on the proposed regulations.Restaurant Dietitian can guide you through how these regulations will affect you. The following is a summary of the key points of the new proposed guidelines:

Who is Affected?

Under the proposed measures, a restaurant or similar retail food establishment is a “covered establishment” if it is part of a chain with 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. There are alternative definitions and additional food service operations that may be included under the new proposal.

Current provisions include disclosure of nutritional information for foods with a nutrient content claim or health claim such as low-fat regardless of the number of outlets. This requirement is and still will be in place under the new regulation.

Some local communities and states already have legislation on the books. The information required is not consistent. The Federal law will provide consistency across all locales and preempt state laws for restaurants which opt to register under the federal rules.

What Information is Required for Disclosure?

Covered establishments are required to post calories for “standard menu items,” including “combination meals,” “food on display,” and “self-service food.” The new nutrition labeling requirements do not apply to “custom orders,” “daily specials,” “food that is part of a customary market test,” and “temporary menu items.” And, unlike the first proposal, alcoholic beverages are exempt.

The amount of each of the following nutrients: total fat, saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber, and total protein must be calculated and available to the consumer upon request.

In addition to posting calories, the FDA is proposes that the following statement on daily caloric intake be on menus and menu boards to help consumers understand the significance of the calorie information in the context of a total daily diet. “A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however, individual calorie needs may vary.”

Where must the Data be Displayed?

The law requires nutrition labeling to be “prominent, clear, and conspicuous.” Calories would be required on menus and menu boards, including drive-through menu boards, in covered restaurants and similar retail food establishments; and on signs next to foods on display. For vending machines, FDA is proposing that calories be declared in close proximity to the food.

When must I comply?

Time line is as follows: 60 days for public comment. Final word from the FDA will be by the end of 2011 and mandatory compliance is likely to be required by mid 2012. To implement this law, the Food and Drug Administration must provide detailed rules for restaurants on how to present calories on menus, menu boards and drive thru boards, as well as how to present and provide additional nutrition information to consumers.

How Can I Analyze our Recipes Without Draining our Resources?

Call Restaurant Dietitian at 650-483-4606 for one-stop shopping to help you comply with the new regulations and see that you have less on your plate. We understand legislation and have the experience and expertise to translate your recipes into analysis that consumers can understand and want to know. According to one study cited in the proposed bill, more than 70 percent of respondents to a national telephone survey of 580 adults supported listing calorie information on restaurant menus.

Informed and content customers lead to smaller bottoms and larger bottom lines.