FDA Issues Menu Guidelines

Published: August 27, 2010

FDA Announces Details on New Federal Menu Labeling Requirements

August 24, 2010

On August 24, 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released two documents that outline steps to help certain chain restaurants and vending machine companies comply with new federal nutrition labeling requirements.

Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Act), signed into law by the President in March 2010 (also known as the health care reform legislation), set new federal requirements for nutrition labeling for foods sold at certain chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations. The Act also requires vending machine operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to provide calorie content for certain food items.

The documents released by the FDA include:

  • A final guidance for industry regarding the effect of the new federal nutrition labeling requirements on state and local laws.

  • A draft guidance describing implementation of certain provisions of the federal law. Some of these include posting the number of calories for standard menu items on menus and menu boards, including drive-through menu boards. This draft guidance is open to comments from the public through www.regulations.gov (click on Submit Comments; in the keyword field, enter FDA-2010-D-0370 and then "Search"). By March 23, 2011, the FDA is required by law to issue proposed regulations to carry out the provisions of Section 4205 of the Act.

The Act also provides that for covered establishments and vending machine operators, the new Federal requirements preempt state and local nutrition labeling laws that are not identical to the Federal requirements. On July 23, 2010, the FDA issued a notice explaining how establishments and vending machine operators who are not covered can voluntarily be subject to the Federal requirements in order to exempt themselves from applicable state and local requirements. See www.fda.gov/menulabeling for more information.

The FDA is releasing these two documents to inform affected businesses of what is required by the menu labeling provisions of the Act as FDA moves toward publishing a proposed rule in March 2011 on menu labeling. Menu labeling will ultimately provide more complete information for consumers so that they can make better choices about what they eat at various eating establishments and when using vending machines.

For more information: New Menu and Vending Machines Labeling Requirements