FDA Issues Proposed Menu Labeling Regulations

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday issued two proposed regulations regarding calorie labeling on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, retail food establishments, and vending machines.

“These proposals will ensure that consumers have more information when they make their own food choices,” said Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

“Giving consumers clear nutritional information makes it easier for them to choose healthier options that can help fight obesity and make us all healthier.”

The proposed menu labeling rule applies to chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments. Specifically, consumers would see calories listed in restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations.

The National Restaurant Association commented on the proposed regulation:

“The National Restaurant Association strongly supported and advocated for the law that will provide consumers with uniform and consistent nutrition information in hundreds of thousands of restaurant locations nationwide,” says Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association.

“From Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, the new standard will help chain restaurants provide the same type of nutrition information to consumers in any part of the country.”

“The publication of the proposed regulations … is the next step forward in providing the industry with consistent, national requirements on how to implement the new uniform nutrition information standard,” she continues.

 “Americans now consume about one-third of their total calories on foods prepared outside the home,” says FDA commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD.

“While consumers can find calorie and other nutrition information on most packaged foods, it’s not generally available in restaurants or similar retail establishments. This proposal is aimed at giving consumers consistent and easy-to-understand nutrition information.”

The Affordable Care Act requires the disclosure of calorie and other nutrition information in certain food establishments.

The FDA is also proposing that the following statement on daily caloric intake be on menus and menu boards to help consumers understand the significance of the calorie information:

“A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however, individual calorie needs may vary.”

State and local governments could not impose any different nutrition labeling requirements for food sold in restaurants, covered by the Federal requirements.

Restaurants that are not covered by the Federal requirements could voluntarily register to be covered under the Federal nutrition labeling regulations.

There is a 60-day public comment period for restaurants and the industry to provide feedback to the FDA.

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