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May 31, 2018

Counting Calories: New FDA Rule on Menu Labeling Takes Effect

On May 7, 2018, the new Food & Drug Administration (FDA) menu labeling final rule went into effect, requiring “covered establishments” (restaurant and retail food chains with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name that offer substantially the same menu items) to, among other requirements, disclose calorie information on menus and menu boards for standard menu items and provide written nutrition information for standard menu items upon consumer request (21 CFR part 101.11). Alcoholic beverages listed on a menu or menu board also meet the definition of a standard menu item and require a calorie declaration and other nutrition information.

Scott Gottlieb, MD, the FDA commissioner, issued a statement May 7 discussing the public health benefits of menu labeling, referencing studies that suggest how “access to clear and consistent information about calories in restaurant items can help reduce calorie intake, which over time could make a difference in obesity rates.”

Gottlieb’s statement also indicated that the FDA, as the oversight agency, will focus on education in its first year following the effective date of compliance:

“[W]e’re . . . taking a flexible approach to implementing the new provisions. We plan to work collaboratively with covered establishments to help them meet the requirements so that more consumers will be able to access and use nutritional information that will now be at their fingertips or in front of them on a menu board. For the first year, we’ll center our efforts on helping covered establishments come into compliance with the law.”

The FDA recently issued finalized guidance in May 2018 on the menu labeling rule, which includes examples of menus that meet the rule’s requirements. In addition, the FDA has a webpage dedicated to menu labeling with links to industry resources.

If you have any questions about compliance with the new menu labeling requirements, please reach out to Mary Raymond, special counsel, at or 716.858.3783 or Bridget Steele, associate, at or 716.858.3704.


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