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Chain Restaurant & Vending Calories No Longer a Mystery

*UPDATE: On July 9, 2015, FDA announced that it had extended the chain restaurant menu labeling compliance date to December 1, 2016.

On December 1, 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published two final rules, one for chain restaurants and one for vending machines, that require calorie and other nutritional information to be readily available for consumers.  According to FDA’s Unified Agenda, about 1/3 of America’s calories are consumed outside of the home and “obese Americans consume over 100 calories per meal more when eating food away from home.”  The new rules, mandated by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, are a way to keep consumers informed about the contents they’re putting in their bodies.

Chain Restaurants & Similar Retail Food Establishments

Who does the final rule apply to?

The rule applies to chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments that:

  1. Have 20 or more locations,
  2. Are doing business under the same name,
  3. And are selling substantially the same menu items.

How should the calories be labeled?

Calories should be displayed clearly and conspicuously next to the name and price of each standard item on menus and menu boards.  Calories of combination meals, alcoholic beverages, self-service food, and food on display must be disclosed as well.  Temporary menu items, daily specials, and condiments are exempt.

Aside from calories, is there any other information that must be made available?

Yes.  Menus and menu boards are required to include the following statement: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”  Along with this, covered restaurants and food establishments must have written nutritional information for each menu item available upon customer request.  Required nutrition information includes:

  • Total calories and calories from fat
  • Total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Total Carbohydrates
  • Fibers
  • Sugars
  •  Protein

Menus and menu boards must display a statement that lets consumers know this information is available to them.

Vending Machines

Who does it apply to?

The rule applies to vending machine operators who own or operate 20 or more machines.

How should the calories be labeled?

The calories must be posted on a sign close to each item in the vending machine or its selection button.

The final rules provide specific font sizes, colors, and contrasts for calorie declarations to ensure they will be easily visible to consumers.  Restaurants and food establishments have until December 1, 2015 to comply with the new menu labeling requirements, while vending machine operators have until December 1, 2016.

Registrar Corp, an FDA compliance firm, stays up to date on U.S. FDA regulations for the food industry.  Follow our blog or follow us on Twitter for other industry updates.  If you have any questions regarding FDA regulations for food companies, Registrar Corp offers a 24/7 Live Help service: www.registrarcorp.com/LiveHelp

View the final rule for chain restaurants.

View the final rule for vending machines.