Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Menu, vending machine calorie labeling regs proposed under health reform

Soon, it'll likely be easier to know calorie counts for items in vending machines and at chain restaurants and other retail food establishments. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued two proposed regulations regarding calorie labeling on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, retail food establishments, and vending machines. The proposals were issued in light of 2010 federal health reform legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires the disclosure of calorie and other nutrition information in certain food establishments and for certain foods sold in vending machines.

Restaurants subject to proposals, movie theaters exempted. The proposed menu labeling rule would apply to chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments. Specifically, consumers would see calories listed in restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. Examples of these establishments include fast food establishments, bakeries, coffee shops and certain grocery and convenience stores. Movie theaters, airplanes, bowling alleys, and other establishments whose primary purpose is not to sell food would not be subject to this proposed regulation.

“Americans now consume about one-third of their total calories on foods prepared outside the home,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “While consumers can find calorie and other nutrition information on most packaged foods, it's not generally available in restaurants or similar retail establishments. This proposal is aimed at giving consumers consistent and easy-to-understand nutrition information.”

Other statements required. Additionally, on menus and menu boards, statements would be posted concerning suggested daily calorie intake and indicating that additional nutrition information is available on request. Under the proposal, this information would be displayed clearly and prominently on menus and menu boards, including menu boards in drive-through locations; and for individual foods on display.  Consistent with the law, the FDA is proposing that the following statement on daily caloric intake be on menus and menu boards to help consumers understand the significance of the calorie information in the context of a total daily diet: “A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however, individual calorie needs may vary.”

Vending machine rules. Under the proposed rules, operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines would be required to post calorie information for food sold in a vending machine, unless certain nutrition information is already visible on individual packages of food inside the machine. 

Federal law trumps state laws. State and local governments could not impose any different nutrition labeling requirements for food sold in restaurants, similar retail food establishments, and vending machines covered by the federal requirements. Restaurants, similar retail food establishments, and vending machine operators that are not covered by the federal rules could voluntarily register to be covered under the federal nutrition labeling regulations.
For more information. For a comprehensive analysis of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including the full text of the law and additional information on health reform implementation and other recent developments in employee benefits, just click here.


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