The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today finalized an existing draft guidance document to further assist restaurants and similar retail food establishments to implement the requirements of the menu labeling final rule. Completing work on menu labeling is an important part of a comprehensive, multi-year Nutrition Innovation Strategy announced in March by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb aimed at providing consumers with easier access to nutritious, affordable foods by empowering them with information and facilitating industry innovation toward healthier foods that consumers want.
The menu labeling rule applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. Covered establishments have to disclose the number of calories contained in standard items on menus and menu boards, or for self-service foods and foods on display, in a manner in close proximity and clearly associated with the standard menu item. Businesses must also provide, upon request, the following nutrition information: total calories; total fat; saturated fat; trans fat; cholesterol; sodium; total carbohydrates; sugars; fiber; and protein. In addition, a statement must be displayed about the availability of such written information. On menus and menu boards, a statement must be included concerning daily caloric intake, indicating that 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.
Today's Supplemental Guidance for Industry addresses public and stakeholder comments and expands upon the draft version issued in November 2017 by providing further clarity on the FDA's practical and flexible approach to several components of the final rule. The question-and-answer style guidance includes graphics and pictures to illustrate the many ways that industry can comply with the provisions of the menu labeling final rule. It addresses such questions as how to distinguish a menu/menu board from marketing materials like coupons and calorie disclosure signage for self-service foods, like buffets and "grab and go" foods.
Many establishments are already displaying menu labeling information. By May 7, covered establishments nationwide are expected to comply with the rule. During the first year of implementation, the FDA will work cooperatively with covered establishments to achieve high levels of compliance with the menu labeling requirements. The agency intends to allow establishments a reasonable opportunity to make corrections for minor violations and plans to continue with education and training. The FDA will continue to provide a number of resources for industry, including an educational module and fact sheets. In addition, the FDA will publish a compliance plan soon that outlines its strategy for compliance and enforcement.
The FDA recognizes the need to implement menu labeling requirements in a way that meets the needs of consumers, but is also pragmatic and not overly burdensome to restaurants and similar retail food establishments. The agency look forward to working closely with industry and consumers in the next year as they implement the rule's requirements.