F.D.A. seeks comments on new federal menu labeling law

by Bryan Salvage
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SILVER SPRING , Md. – The public is being invited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to submit comments and information to help the agency implement a new federal law that requires the posting of calorie content and other nutrition information on menu items at certain chain restaurants and similar retail food operations and vending machines.

The new law, Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act signed into law March 23, 2010, sets new federal requirements for foods sold at some restaurants, coffee shops, delis, movie theaters, bakeries, ice cream shops, and in vending machines.

Federal law required nutrition labeling on many packaged foods, which may be purchased in supermarkets and other locations, and some states and local governments required nutritional labeling by restaurants in their jurisdictions, prior to the new law. The new law requires restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations that offer substantially the same menu items to list calorie-content information on menus and menu boards, including drive-through menu boards.

Total calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber, and total protein must be made available in writing on request. The act also requires vending-machine operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose the calorie content of their items.

F.D.A. is required by law to issue proposed regulations to carry out these provisions by March 23, 2011. The agency also expects to issue guidance concerning the requirements of Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act.

The F.D.A. encourages members of the food industry, state and local governments, consumers and other interested parties to offer comments and suggestions about menu labeling in docket number FDA-2010-N-0298 at www.regulations.gov .

For more information, visit Federal Register Notice: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-16303.pdf   

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