It’s already been a month since the menu labeling compliance date of May 7, 2018 has passed! Can you believe it? Many restaurants and food service establishment teams are breathing a sigh of relief now that their menus are compliant, but do you know what you need to focus on next regarding menu labeling? To help shed some light on menu maintenance and future trends, read my responses to the 5 key questions you may have now that the compliance date has finally come and gone.
1) How is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforcing these regulations? The FDA has said that they will be working with restaurants to make sure they are complying with menu labeling regulations accurately. However, it is unknown if the FDA will have an enforcement plan and charge fines for non-compliance in the future.
2) Should I comply even if I don’t have 20 locations? Some of Mérieux NutriSciences’ menu labeling customers don’t have 20 locations but have elected to voluntarily comply to the labeling regulation for other reasons. For example, some restaurant and food service establishments are close to having 20 locations and understand that menu labeling can take a few months to implement. These restaurants may want to be proactive in order to make sure they have all of their nutrition information ready to go before their 20th location opening. We are also seeing some clients comply with menu labeling regulations because their customers are requesting nutrition information for menu items. We continue to hear about this trend because consumers see the calories posted at many of their favorite chains, so they expect their favorite local spots or smaller chains to be able to provide them with nutrition information, too.
3) How do I know if my nutrition information is accurate? Beware: some customers might have access to test the accuracy of a restaurant or food service establishment’s nutrition information. Inaccurate information could result in damage to a brand’s reputation or a potential lawsuit. This can be avoided if you follow best practices when calculating your nutrition information. Because the first year of compliance is being treated as educational by the FDA, you may find in the coming months that you need to recalculate the information for some of your menu items to ensure you’re providing accurate information.
4) Should I worry about declaring allergens in my dishes? Allergen disclosure is increasingly being found on menus along with the nutrition information. Consumers want to be able to glance at a menu and know which allergens are in a dish just as they can easily find it on the food label of a product at the store. Mislabeling your allergens may result in a customer having an allergic reaction and, in turn, a brand nightmare for you, so it is imperative that allergen declaration is done correctly. I am interested to see if the FDA requires restaurants to disclose this information in the future.
5) How can I address the needs of consumers who follow a specific diet? Vegetarian, Paleo, Ketogenic diet…the list of diets popular with consumers goes on and on. The FDA has not yet defined all of these individual diet terms, but some restaurants are deciding to be more transparent about whether a meal fits within a specific diet’s guidelines. It is not unusual these days to see a “V” symbol next to a menu item to designate that dish as vegetarian. The European Union is working on officially defining labels like, “vegan” and “vegetarian” for use in restaurants, so it will be interesting to see if the FDA follows suit.
Do you need help calculating your nutrition information or developing allergen statements for your menu items? Do you need help identifying whether a menu item is vegetarian? Mérieux NutriSciences has a team dedicated to working with restaurants and food service establishments. Download our menu compliance review sheet today to learn more!
With the menu labeling compliance date behind us, you may still have other unanswered questions. I will be answering any of your burning questions in an upcoming vlog series. Please leave a comment below with any questions you would like to contribute to the conversation!
Meet the Author
Sophie Lauer, RD
Associate Nutrition Program Manager, Mérieux NutriSciences
Sophie Lauer is the Associate Nutrition Program Manager at Mérieux NutriSciences. She received her Bachelor of Sciences in Applied Health Science, Dietetics from Indiana University. Sophie received her MBA from Dominican University. In her free time, she enjoys cooking for friends and family as well as playing with her goldendoodle.