FDA Regulations: Menu Labeling vs Food Labeling

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FDA Regulations: Menu Labeling vs Food Labeling

The food industry has seen a lot of regulatory changes in the last few years, and two of the more significant are:

  • The FDA’s introduction of Menu and Vending Nutrition Labeling
  • The updates to the Nutrition Facts Label nutrient disclosures and format

Understandably, there is confusion about what changes/additions apply to which labeling regulations. This blog is going to clear that up.

Background on recent FDA regulatory changes

Both the decision to restructure the Nutrition Facts labels and the requirement for restaurants to post calories on menus are rulings made by the FDA to help educate the public on what they’re eating and to encourage healthier dietary habits.

In a nutshell, the Nutrition Facts label update makes calories more prominent, adds new mandatory and voluntary nutrients, and revises the RACCs to reflect real-world eating patterns.

The Menu Labeling regulations require the display of calorie information for standard menu items and consumer access to additional nutrient information upon request. Restaurants with less than 20 locations are not required to display nutrition information at this time.

The table below shows a side-by-side comparison of what nutrients have been affected by the changes.

This table shows what is required for packaged food and menu labeling, and which regulatory topics cover each. Restaurants must be compliant by May 2018, while packaged food manufacturers must be compliant by January 2020 and 2021.

What about “grab and go” food?

After all that, there is one more thing to consider: Can you use a Nutrition Facts label to comply with menu labeling regulations? You may, according to this Q&A from the FDA:

If I choose to add a Nutrition Facts label to a “grab and go” food, would that meet the requirements under 21 CFR 101.11 for calorie and the additional written nutrition information? 

Answer: If an establishment voluntarily chooses to use a Nutrition Facts label that meets the requirements under 21 CFR 101.9, the Nutrition Facts label would meet the menu labeling requirements for calorie declaration and additional written nutrition information.