WASHINGTON – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released draft guidelines on the agency’s menu labeling rules to help stakeholders achieve compliance by May 7, 2018.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said in a statement that the latest guidance directly addresses questions and concerns raised by stakeholders during the comment phase of the regulatory process.

“We’ve heard the concerns, took them to heart, and are responding with practical solutions to make it easier for industry to meet their obligations in these important public health endeavors,” Gottlieb said.

“For instance, some store owners asked us whether posters, billboards, coupon mailings, and other marketing materials would meet FDA’s definition of a menu that would be required to include calorie information,” he explained. “Our new draft guidance explains that these materials are not considered menus under our regulation and do not require calorie counts.”

The final rule applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, offering substantially the same menu items and “offering restaurant-type foods.” The statute requires nutrition labeling for “standard menu items,” defined as “restaurant-type food that is routinely included on a menu or menu board or routinely offered as a self-service food or food on display.”

Major provisions of the final rule:

  • Establish which foods are subject to the nutrition labeling requirements and which foods are not subject to these requirements;
  • Require that calories for standard menu items be declared on menus and menu boards that list such foods for sale;
  • Require that written nutrition information for standard menu items be available to consumers who ask to see it; and
  • Establish terms and conditions under which restaurants and similar retail food establishments not otherwise subject to the rule could elect to be subject to the requirements by registering with FDA, among other provisions.

“I’m fully committed to implementing these provisions on the timetable we’ve already announced,” Gottlieb said. “But I’m equally committed to making sure we implement these provisions in a way that is practical, efficient and sustainable. We took to heart questions from stakeholders about how these provisions would work as a practical matter in the real world. By being thoughtful and getting it right now we have before us an opportunity to implement these provisions across the diverse retail food landscape to reach our important underlying goal sooner.”