Get Ready for Menu Labeling: Part 2

Get Ready for Menu Labeling: Part 2

How Accurate Does My Nutrition Information Need to Be? The Reasonable Basis Standard

By Anita Jones-Mueller, MPH, President of Healthy Dining
April 29, 2015

Read Part 1: Understanding the Menu Labeling Requirements
Read Part 3: How Accurate Is My Restaurant’s Nutrition Information? 4 Steps to Verify Accuracy

Restaurants with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items will soon be required to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) menu labeling regulations. 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 5, 2017 deadline. That may mean you are in the process of verifying the accuracy of your current nutrition information, which we’ll discuss in Part 3 of this series, or you may be in the process of completing a full menu analysis from start to finish. Wherever you are in the process, this article will help you:

  1. Meet the FDA’s Reasonable Basis Standard
  2. Understand the FDA’s requirements for accuracy
  3. Prepare substantiation documentation that may be required upon request

What is the Reasonable Basis Standard?

As outlined in the FDA’s recently released menu labeling guidance document and the final rules, restaurants must have a “reasonable basis” for nutrient declarations. In other words, restaurants must meet specific requirements to determine the calorie information listed on menus and menu boards and values for the required additional written nutrition information. According to the FDA’s rules, a reasonable basis for nutrient declarations includes:


FDA’s Requirements for Accuracy

According to the FDA’s menu labeling rules, “You must ensure that nutrient declarations for standard menu items are accurate and consistent with the specific basis used to determine nutrient values. You must take reasonable steps to ensure that the method of preparation (e.g., types and amounts of ingredients, cooking temperatures) and amount of a standard menu item offered for sale adhere to the factors on which you determined your nutrient values.” Failure to comply with the rule will render the food misbranded and operators could be subject to civil penalties or other enforcement actions.

In terms of enforcement, the FDA states that they may require, upon request, that restaurants provide information substantiating nutrient values including the method and data used to derive these nutrient values as well as two statements:

1) A statement signed and dated by a “responsible individual, employed at the covered establishment or its corporate headquarters or parent entity, who can certify that the information contained in the nutrient analysis is complete and accurate.”

2) A statement signed and dated by a responsible individual employed at the covered establishment certifying that the covered establishment has taken reasonable steps to ensure that the method of preparation (e.g., types and amounts of ingredients in the recipe, cooking temperatures, cooking methods) and amount of a standard menu item offered for sale adhere to the factors on which its nutrient values were determined.


Substantiation Documentation Required

Depending on how your restaurant chooses to complete menu analysis, certain information and documentation will be required in order to demonstrate the “reasonable basis standard.” This “substantiation documentation” may include such information as the name and version of the nutrient database used; the recipe and its nutrient breakdown; name, author and publisher of the cookbook used; copies of analytical worksheets from the laboratory used; and more. Upon request, a certification by a responsible individual will be required attesting to “reasonable steps” and in most cases “completeness and accuracy of nutrient analysis.” Find the detailed information on substantiation documentation requirements for your selected method of menu analysis here.


Learn more about the menu labeling regulations and requirements in the full guidance document.

Next Topic: How Accurate Is My Nutrition Information? – Accuracy Checklist
If your restaurant already has nutrition information, it’s essential now to verify its accuracy. Healthy Dining’s culinary dietitians will walk you through how to determine the accuracy of your nutrition information before publishing for guests.

Healthy Dining will be providing step-by-step guidance on how to comply with the menu labeling rules. 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 3: How Accurate Is My Restaurant’s Nutrition Information? 4 Steps to Verify Accuracy
Read Part 4: The Additional Written Information Requirement
Read Part 5: Beverages, Alcohol, and Menu Labeling

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 on various matters.