New Menu Labeling Bill Passes House – What Does That Mean for Your Restaurant?

New Menu Labeling Bill Passes House – What Does That Mean for Your Restaurant?
5/17/2018
 
By Anita Jones-Mueller, MPH
February 26, 2018

In just a few short months, restaurants with 20 or more locations will be required to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) menu labeling rules. If you are one of these more than 250,000 restaurant locations nationwide, you are most likely in the process of preparing for the new law in time to meet the May 7, 2018, deadline.  

You may have heard about a new bill that passed the U.S House of Representatives in early February 2018. If passed by the Senate, this bill will provide additional flexibility in how restaurants display nutrition information. Specifically, restaurants with pizza, sandwich and other items that have sometimes hundreds of variations will be allowed to present the information in a variety of ways, such as displaying a range or average rather than each variation; and the calorie and additional nutrition information can be presented on websites and/or mobile apps if the majority of orders are placed online. Additionally, restaurants will have 90 days to correct inaccurate information instead of receiving a fine or other penalty with the first violation. Read more

"By bringing this rule into the 21st century, customers can trust that they're getting reliable information in a way that is easy to access and is customer-user friendly," said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who introduced the legislation, called the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act.

Will Menu Labeling Be Delayed Again? 
The new House bill does not hint at any reluctance toward moving forward with menu labeling. In a statement dated November 7, 2017, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, stated: “FDA takes seriously the authority Congress granted to us in overseeing federal food labeling standards, including our mandate to make calorie information available on menus. From the outset, the agency recognized the enormity of our responsibility, not only to implement this law in a way that meets the needs of American consumers, but doing so while being pragmatic and not overly burdensome to restaurants and similar retail food establishments.”
 
Neither does the new House bill disclose any possibility of a delay to the May 7, 2018, compliance date. Gottlieb emphasized in his November statement: “I’m fully committed to implementing these provisions on the timetable we’ve already announced. But I’m equally committed to making sure we implement these provisions in a way that is practical, efficient and sustainable.” Gottlieb continued by stating that the most recent November draft guidance  “reflects our commitment to establishing a practical and sustainable framework for implementing the new menu labeling provisions. With these resources, we believe covered establishments are well positioned to implement the requirements by the May 7, 2018 compliance date.”
 
There is further reason for the FDA to hold to the May 7 compliance date: In June 2017, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the National Consumers League initiated a lawsuit against the FDA the delay of the May 2017 menu labeling compliance date citing the FDA had "jeopardized public health."  

On September 27, 2017, a U.S. District Court Judge accepted an agreement by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to halt any further lawsuit action against FDA based on the August 25th statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, providing assurance that there will be no further delay and no changes to the menu labeling requirements.

You May Ask:
  • Will menu labeling be delayed again? Possibly.
  • Will menu labeling be overturned completely? Highly unlikely.
  • Will the rules be changed? Possibly – in a way that will make it easier for restaurants to show nutritional values of menu items that can be customized in a variety of ways. And there is a chance that the “additional information upon request” may be presented through a mobile app or on a website. But these changes have not been passed at the current time and may not be before the May 7th, 2018, compliance date.  

So What Should my Restaurant do Now?
There is no doubt that the FDA will require restaurants with 20 or more U.S. locations to provide accurate nutrition information. The only question at this point is how the nutrients must be presented. So most important is to make sure that you have complete – and accurate – nutrition information for the 11 required nutrients.

Next, step back and ask: “How can our restaurant help our guests apply this information?” That is truly the bottom line: Never before has nutrition transparency been so valued by restaurant guests. So use this first-ever federal law as a guest engagement privilege. Honor your guests by providing them with the information that they can apply to be at their best: to lose weight, control diabetes, reduce high blood pressure or cholesterol and/or perform at their best for work, school and/or in athletics and fitness.

Most restaurants today have a growing variety of healthier items. And many standard items can be customized with a few tweaks to meet healthy lifestyle criteria. Showcase these items and make them easy to find on your menu. Additionally, don’t require your guests to spend time wading through pages of nutrition charts. Make sure your nutritionals meet guests’ technology expectations with easy mobile access and a high quality personalization format. PDF charts don’t cut it anymore for today’s tech savvy guests.

To view a demo of the new mobile-responsive MyMenuSM “virtual concierge and personal dietitian,” contact Hello@HealthyDining.biz. MyMenu is cost-effective and easily integrated into restaurants’ websites, tablets/kiosks and mobile apps and provides guests with a big “WOW!”
 
ABOUT HEALTHY DINING:
With 25 years of nutrition expertise in the restaurant industry and hundreds of thousands of restaurant recipes analyzed, Healthy Dining is the most experienced restaurant nutrition services provider in the world. Healthy Dining’s team of registered dietitians supports thousands of restaurants in meeting the expanding nutrition needs of their guests and helps restaurants comply with the new FDA menu-labeling regulations. Most Healthy Dining nutrition clients are featured on HealthyDiningFinder.com, which highlights healthier menu items offered by restaurants that care about their guests’ needs and health. Healthy Dining has developed cutting-edge MyMenuSM technology that enables guests to find menu items based on personal health and lifestyle goals, needs and preferences. This technology – designed to live on a restaurant’s website, mobile app, and/or kiosks within the restaurant – is poised to revolutionize how guests find their “ideal meal” with a big "WOW!" For more information, visit HealthyDining.biz or for a complimentary demo, email Hello@HealthyDining.biz.