California’s previous menu labeling law required restaurants with more than 19 locations in the state to provide nutrition information on standard menus. However, the FDA regulations issued will supersede any state requirement once the federal regulations go into effect. Some notable differences are: the federal law applies to restaurants with 20 or more locations in the United States; drive-thru menu boards will need to display calorie information; and, alcohol beverages will have calorie information listed.
Under the FDA Final Regulations, restaurants must comply with the new regulations by December 1, 2015. Below are several top-line provisions:
• Who’s covered: The law applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments with greater than 19 locations that operate under the same name and sell substantially the same menu items across their locations. The National Restaurant Association fought hard to ensure that the regulations apply to restaurant-type foods sold in convenience stores and grocery stores.
• Federal pre-emption: States and local jurisdictions cannot set different or additional requirements for establishments covered under the federal law. The preemption also covers smaller establishments that voluntarily opt in to the federal standard.
• Compliance date: The final regulations go into effect December 1, 2015.
• What’s required: On December 1, 2015, all restaurants covered under the federal law will be required to:
o Display calories clearly and prominently on menus, menu boards and drive-thru displays for standard menu items. Calorie information must be displayed on signs near menu items in the case of self-service, buffet and cafeteria lines.
o Make other nutrition information available in writing on request. Additional information includes data on calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber and protein.
o Include a menu notice advising guests that further written nutrition data is available on request for standard menu items.
o Include a succinct statement on the menu advising guests how calories fit into a recommended daily diet.
• Compliance: The law will require restaurants to have a “reasonable basis” to substantiate their nutrition data, such as nutrient databases, nutrition facts labels, laboratory analysis and other means.
• Menu items are covered: Standard menu items are covered, including food at buffets, salad bars and cafeteria lines, as well as combination meals and self-service items. It applies to beverages, including some alcoholic drinks. Not included: Daily specials, custom menu orders, general-use condiments, test-market items (appearing on menu less than 90 days) and some other temporary and seasonal items (appearing on menu less than 60 days per calendar year).