FDA To Issue New Menu Labeling Requirements This Year

April 2, 2011, 10:29 AM HST · Updated April 3, 11:45 AM
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Restaurants like Lahaina Coolers that offer dining and dancing in Lahaina will soon have calorie labels on their menus. Photo courtesy of Lahaina Coolers.

By Sonia Isotov

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) invites Maui County restaurants to comment on two proposed regulations issued yesterday governing calorie labeling on menus and menu boards.  The FDA plans to issue final rules before the end of this year.

The public comment period on the proposed FDA regulations is open untill June 6. Chain restaurants, retail food establishments, and vending machines owners can provide public comment by going online to http://www.regulations.gov.

“Giving consumers clear nutritional information makes it easier for them to choose healthier options that can help fight obesity and make us all healthier,” said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in a written statement yesterday.

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Fast food establishments, bakers, coffee chops and certain grocery and convenience stores will be required to list calories on menus and menu boards. However, companies such as movie theaters, airplanes, or bowling alleys, which do not sell food as a primary purpose, would not be subject to the proposed regulation.

The new regulations are part of the Affordable Care Act that requires the disclosure of calorie and other nutrition information.

“Americans now consume about one-third of their total calories on foods prepared outside the home,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D, in the same statement yesterday. “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.”

The FDA is also seeking comment on two companion rules; one governing food sold in vending machines and a second on whether additional types of food establishments should or should not be covered by the new rule.

The agency is also proposing that the following statement be on menus and menu boards: “A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however, individual calorie needs may vary.”

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