Menu labeling

Menu labeling provisions within the landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have left the California restaurant industry in a holding pattern, as it waits to see the final guidelines by the Food and Drug Administration, which were expected in late 2011. At this point, it remains unclear how the federal rules will reconcile with California’s existing menu labeling law, which was enacted in 2008.

California has passed a bill that will adopt the federal rules and preempt California’s 2008 menu labeling law. Local regulators will have authority to enforce the federal provisions within the time period specified, once those are released.

The federal government is considering California’s law, but also New York and other states and localities, in developing the national standards. So it remains unclear whether the federal law will ultimately be similar our or have drastic implications for California restaurants that have already made changes to fulfill the state requirements that went into effect in 2009 and 2010. Initial average costs to implement federal requirements are estimated to be $1,100 per establishment, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.

Other potential changes

  • Federal and state laws both define chains as 20 or more locations, though the federal law includes companies with 20 or more locations nationwide.
  • In addition to posting caloric information on menus, menu boards and drive-through menu boards, the federal law requires restaurants to also provide additional nutrition information to customers in writing upon request, including calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber and protein.