Monday, August 30, 2010

FDA clarifies menu labeling laws that are effective now

The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued guidance with regard to exactly which provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) governing nutrition labeling requirements are effective now, and which are not required to be followed until final regulations have been issued. The guidance explains that chain retail restaurants are required to disclose the number of calories in each standard menu item, written nutrition information must be given to customers upon request, the availability of that written information must be explained to customers on menus and menu boards, and, for self-service items and food on display, calorie information must be provided on a sign adjacent to each food item.

So far, final regulations have not been issued on either requirements established by the FDA for a menu statement putting calorie information in the context of a total daily caloric intake, or on standards for determining and disclosing the nutrient content for standard menu items that come in different flavors, varieties, or combinations, but which are listed as a single menu item.

The ACA labeling requirements generally only cover restaurants with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name. Restaurants with fewer locations would still be subject to their state or local government's nutrition labeling laws. Restaurants that are subject to the ACA's rules are effectively only answerable to the ACA's provisions, since, under ACA Sec. 4205, state and local governments cannot impose nutrition labeling requirements that are not identical to the ACA's provisions. It should be noted that restaurants with fewer than 20 locations can opt to participate in the ACA nutrition labeling program, and those restaurants would then be exempt from their state and local governments' nutrition labeling laws.

For a comprehensive analysis of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and additional information on health reform and other developments in employee benefits, just click here.


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