Food plays a large role in our daily lives, but choosing the right foods to fit our individual lifestyles is not always easy. For example, someone may need to eat more calories if they’re training for a triathlon or incorporate more vegetables and whole grains into their meals if they’re trying to increase their fiber intake. Other times, consumers may simply be trying to choose a nutritionally-sound option for a meal on-the-go.

The theme for this year’s National Nutrition Month is “Go Further with Food,” which places an emphasis on selecting the right foods to meet individual needs. For restaurants and food manufacturers, this month serves as a reminder to track your progress in complying with upcoming labeling regulations and examine opportunities to develop new products to meet consumer needs. The Food Drug Administration (FDA) is making it easier for consumers to find transparent nutrition information on the foods they eat with menu labeling and nutrition labeling regulations coming into compliance soon.

Menu Labeling

With menu labeling compliance right around the corner, consumers are gaining new insights into what they are eating away from home. When they’re dining out at their favorite restaurants, they will be able to view calories and details of the nutrients in the food they are eating to make a better-informed decision about what to order.

On May 7, 2018, menu labeling will be required under federal law in the United States for restaurants with 20 or more locations. In Ontario, Canada, restaurants with 20 or more locations have also been providing their consumers with calorie information for the past year. Even though it is not required, many restaurants with fewer than 20 locations are also choosing to provide nutrition information on their menu items in order to meet customer demand. Some restaurants are even providing allergen or ingredient lists to help consumers understand the contents of every menu item.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Tip: For restaurants, education and training for on-site employees, especially in measuring precise serving sizes, is crucial. The portions being served need to match the nutrition information on the menu. Staff members should also be trained on how to answer inquiries surrounding nutrition information or allergens on the menu. Make sure that all locations know who to contact within the company in case there is a question about a specific menu item.

Nutrition Labeling

Many food manufacturers are already working on updating their products with the new Nutrition Facts Label. The expected FDA compliance date is January 1, 2020 for companies with $10 million or more in annual sales. Food manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual sales have until January 1, 2021 to comply.

The updated label shines a new light on certain nutrients. For example, the FDA has increased visibility about the type of sugar in food products with the new added sugars line. However, despite the extra information on sugar, consumers and food manufacturers alike should understand that not all sugar is “bad” sugar. Fruits and some vegetables naturally contain sugar, along with an array of other vital nutrients such as fiber, vitamins and minerals. While fruit juice concentrates, fruit/vegetable purees and pastes are all included in the definition of added sugars, they may still provide other nutritional benefits to your products.

The FDA also recently made updates to the Reference Amount Customarily Consumed for certain product categories to better match what Americans are actually consuming in one sitting. This will hopefully make it easier for consumers to understand the amount of a nutrient they’re eating in one serving without needing to do math. Percent Daily Values (%DV) have also been updated to better match the needs of the average American.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Tip: For any food manufacturer that is updating their nutrition labels, it’s important to consider how old your nutrient data is before using it to create your new label. Your product’s nutrient data could have changed if you’ve switched up ingredients, suppliers or the processing methods used in your manufacturing. It’s recommended that a company examine its nutrient data every two to three years to ensure labels are up-to-date, although the time period can vary depending on the food product. Some companies may also choose to test specific nutrients more frequently if they are at a higher risk for change.

If you’re preparing your recipes for menu labeling compliance or your nutrient data for the new Nutrition Facts Label, our expert team can help! At Mérieux NutriSciences, our RDNs provide their expertise to nutrition studies and work with clients to create products that are compliant, safe to eat and true to their label claims. We offer nutrition labeling by laboratory analysis, calculated analysis or a combination of both. Download our Menu Labeling Ebook or our Nutrition Labeling Informational Sheet below to get started!

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.

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