March 2015 Issue

Menu Labeling Coming to a Restaurant Near You

The FDA final ruling to implement a national menu labeling standard for chain restaurants made national headlines recently—and rightly so. This is big news! Part of the 2010 health care law, this new standard preempts state and local menu labeling laws, and applies to all chains with 20 or more locations operating under the same name. These restaurants will be required to provide consumers with clear, consistent nutrition information on menu items in a direct and accessible manner, including calorie information for standard items on menus and menu boards, and other nutrient information (i.e., fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugars) upon request. Examples of some of the foods covered in the rule include meals from sit-down restaurants, drive-thru foods, take-out food, deli sandwiches, salad or hot bar items, bakery and coffee shop baked goods, ice cream shop desserts, hot dogs at convenience stores, and certain alcoholic beverages.

Many nutrition experts welcome this new labeling law as one more tool to help consumers stay informed about their food choices. Statistics show that Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home, and research shows that restaurant meals pack more calories than home-cooked meals. Restaurants will have until December 2015 to implement the change.