Eaters, food companies, policy wonks, and restaurateurs all have the opportunity to weigh in on new nationwide menu labeling requirements.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday it is inviting the public to comment on implementing a new federal law that requires calorie content and other nutrition information be posted on menu items at certain chain restaurants, retail food operations, and in vending machines.

The new requirements are part of the health care reform bill, the Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress in March. The bill sets federal requirements for foods sold at certain restaurants, coffee shops, delis, movie theaters, bakeries, ice cream shops, and in vending machines.

Though many food items sold in stores are already required to bear nutritional information, how such information is displayed, if at all, in restaurants has been left up to state and local governments, resulting in a hodgepodge of rules and regulations.

menu-info-featured.jpgThe new law requires restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations that offer substantially the same menu items to list calorie content information on menus and menu boards, including drive-through menu boards–and the requirements, when finalized, will be consistent across all states.

According to the FDA, other nutrition information–total calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber, and total protein–must also be made available in writing on request. The new law also requires vending machine operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose the calorie content of items.
The agency is required by law to issue proposed regulations to carry out these provisions by March 23, 2011.

How to comment:

The FDA encourages members of the food industry, state and local governments, consumers, and other interested parties to offer comments and suggestions about menu labeling in docket number FDA-2010-N-0298 at The docket will officially open for comments after noon on July 7, 2010 and will remain open for 60 days. 

For more detailed information on submitting comments, see the Federal Register Notice