Get Ready for Menu Labeling: Part 5

Get Ready for Menu Labeling: Part 5

Beverages, Alcohol and Menu Labeling

By Anita Jones-Mueller, MPH, President of Healthy Dining
July 2, 2015

Read Part 4: The Additional Written Information Requirement

Restaurant menu labeling regulations are on the front burner in the industry.  Now is the time to complete nutrition analysis of your menu or review the nutrition information you already have on hand to ensure menu labeling compliance by the fast-approaching deadline.  If you’ve been taking a closer look at how menu labeling regulations will apply to your menu, you may be seeing that the rules cover more than just food.  Listing calories on the menu and providing additional nutrition information for beverages considered standard menu items will also be a requirement starting soon.  Are you ready to comply?

The Basics for Beverages
According to the menu labeling regulations, all beverages that are restaurant-type foods and standard menu items are covered by the rules.   Depending on your restaurant concept, adding calorie counts to your beverage menu may be as simple as compiling the nutrition information for a few standard non-alcoholic beverages or as complex as hunting down labels, researching nutrition and determining calorie ranges for an extensive beverage and cocktail menu.  While additional guidance is expected on alcoholic beverage menu labeling, these basics of the final rules provide covered restaurants a good starting point for compliance with the regulations.

One of the biggest questions that has come up since the release of the final rules for menu labeling is whether or not alcoholic beverages are covered by the rule.  The short answer is yes, but not all.  The final rule covers alcoholic beverages that are standard menu items listed on a menu or menu board.  The FDA’s menu labeling guidance document specifies: “…alcoholic beverages that are foods on display and are not self-service foods are not subject to the new requirements…”  For example, bottles of liquor and mixers behind a bar used to prepare mixed drinks are not subject to the labeling regulations that otherwise apply to standard menu items that are self-service or on display.”

Beyond the Basics
Once you know which beverages in your restaurant are covered by menu labeling regulations, it’s important to know how these menu items are required to be labeled.  The FDA provides the following guidance on disclosing calories for beverages on menus and menu boards:

“For self-service beverages, calorie declarations must be accompanied by the term ‘fluid ounces’ and, if applicable, the description of the cup size (e.g., ‘small,’ ‘medium’).”  In addition, self-service alcoholic beverages, such as bottles of beer available for sale from a cooler near the cash register, are covered.

For beverages that are not self-service:
  • You must declare calories based on the full volume of the cup served without ice, unless you ordinarily dispense and offer for sale a standard beverage fill (i.e., a fixed amount that is less than the full volume of the cup per cup size) or dispense a standard ice fill (i.e., a fixed amount of ice per cup size). 
  • If you ordinarily dispense and offer for sale a standard beverage fill or dispense a standard ice fill, you must declare calories based on such standard beverage fill or standard ice fill. “

Essentially, every individually listed standard menu item, food or beverage, must have an individual calorie value adjacent to it on the menu or menu board.  In some cases, such as “soft drinks” or “draft beers” that are not self-serve, the calories can be declared as a calorie range.  For example (not self-serve), Small Soda: 130-170 Cal, Large Soda: 260-340 Cal.  We’ll delve deeper into posting requirements in Part 7 of this series.

Next Topic: Training Your Staff for Compliance
Accurate nutrition analysis of menu items is just the first step to providing accurate nutrition information to guests.  These tools and insights will help you train your staff for menu labeling compliance. 

Healthy Dining will be providing step-by-step guidance on how to comply with the menu labeling regulations. For more information, contact and Healthy Dining’s team of registered dietitians.

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 them comply with the new FDA menu-labeling regulations. Most of Healthy Dining’s clients are featured on The National Restaurant Association has named Healthy Dining as its exclusive nutrition partner for the industry. Additionally, Healthy Dining has been selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to implement a variety of restaurant nutrition-related research projects through the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Program.

Learn more about Healthy Dining's nutrition services.
Meet Healthy Dining's team of registered dietitians. 
For a complimentary consultation, contact one of Healthy Dining's dietitians

Read Part 1: Understanding the Menu Labeling Requirements
Read Part 2: How Accurate Does My Nutrition Information Need to Be? The Reasonable Basis Standard
Read Part 3: How Accurate Is My Restaurant’s Nutrition Information? 4 Steps to Verify Accuracy
Read Part 4: The Additional Written Information Requirement

Disclaimer: Menu labeling compliance information provided by Healthy Dining should not be construed as legal advice. Our team of registered dietitians and other personnel have reviewed the menu labeling regulations promulgated by the FDA in detail and communicate regularly with the FDA to clarify, ask questions and receive guidance. However, the information Healthy Dining provides has not been drafted or reviewed by an attorney and should not be viewed as legal advice. It is also important to note that the advice Healthy Dining receives from the FDA in conversations or which was provided by the FDA in the Guidance for Industry document released in March 2015 is nonbinding on the FDA, which expressly reserves the right to change its thinking.