FDA seeks public comment on new federal menu labeling requirements

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it is inviting the public to submit comments and information to help the agency implement a new federal law that requires the posting of calorie content and other nutrition information on menu items at certain chain restaurants and similar retail food operations and vending machines.

July 7, 2010

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it is inviting the public to submit comments and information to help the agency implement a new federal law that requires the posting of calorie content and other nutrition information on menu items at certain chain restaurants and similar retail food operations and vending machines.

The new law, Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act signed into law March 23, 2010, sets new federal requirements for foods sold at certain restaurants, coffee shops, delis, movie theaters, bakeries, ice cream shops, and in vending machines.

Prior to the new law, federal law required nutrition labeling on many packaged foods, which may be purchased in supermarkets and at other locations, and some states and local governments required nutritional labeling by restaurants in their jurisdictions. The new law requires restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations that offer substantially the same menu items to list calorie content information on menus and menu boards, including drive-through menu boards.

Other nutrition information—total calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber, and total protein—must be made available in writing on request. The act also requires vending machine operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose the calorie content of their items.

The FDA is required by law to issue proposed regulations to carry out these provisions by March 23, 2011. The agency also expects to issue guidance concerning the requirements of Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act.

The FDA encourages members of the food industry, state and local governments, consumers, and other interested parties to offer comments and suggestions about menu labeling in docket number FDA-2010-N-0298 at www.regulations.gov. The docket will officially open for comments after noon on July 7, 2010 and will remain open for 60 days.

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