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New FDA Menu labeling Rules Go into Effect December 1, 2015

Starting December 1, 2015, new labeling regulations published by the Food and Drug Administration will require restaurants to post caloric information on menus and menu boards and provide specific nutritional information upon customer request. The new rules will affect restaurants of all types (sit-downs, buffets, cafeterias, etc.), retail food establishments, and eventually, vending machines.

Congress passed the new federal menu labeling law in 2010 as part of the Patent Protection and Affordable Care Act. The new federal law supersedes any local or state menu labeling laws already affecting restaurant chains with 20 or more locations. However, restaurants under state laws affecting chains with 5 to 19 locations either can continue following the applicable state law or they can opt-out in favor of the new federal law. Restaurant chains with 5-19 locations residing in states with no labeling laws may voluntarily comply with the federal law, but such chains are not required to do so.

Under the new FDA labeling rules, the affected restaurants must post caloric specific nutritional information and must provide specific nutritional information at a customer's request. If the customer requests more specific information, the restaurant must provide written nutritional information about total fat, total calories, total calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber protein, and sugars. Moreover, to put this information in prospective, all menus and menu boards must include the statement "2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but caloric needs vary."

To comply fully with the new rule, restaurants must have a "reasonable basis" to substantiate nutritional data listed on menus and provided to customers. Restaurants can form a reasonable basis for the nutritional information from sources such as nutrient databases, laboratory analysis, and various other means.

Eventually, these rules will affect vending machine operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines. The rules provide certain exceptions, but ultimately require menus or menu boards to disclose caloric information for the food sold form the machines. Currently, the vending machine rules will go into effect sometime in December of 2016.

The National Restaurant Association estimates that these new rules will affect more than 200,000 restaurants across the nation. Restaurant and vending machine owners/operators should consult an attorney and familiarize themselves with the FDA's new menu labeling requirements.

A brief overview of the new regulations can be found here http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm248732.htm.

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The Bassett Firm

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