FDA Menu-Labeling Requirements Finally Go into Effect

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s new menu labeling rules took effect today, ushering in a new wave of requirements for chain retailers.

Going forward, chain restaurants, grocery outlets, and convenience stores with more than 20 locations will be required to post caloric and nutritional information for beer as well as other food and drinks sold on-premise that are considered “standard menu items.” According to the FDA, a standard menu item is one that is routinely included on menus and menu boards.

However, the requirement does not apply to draft beer that is not listed on either a menu or menu board. Also, offerings listed on a menu or menu board for less than 60 days a year, such as seasonal releases, are also exempt from the disclosure requirements.

“By setting a clear standard, this rule provides the necessary guidance and expectations for America’s restaurants to follow in order to continue delivering a high quality experience and customer service to everyone who walks through our doors, as well as the transparency our customers demand,” National Restaurant Association executive vice president Cicely Simpson said, via a statement sent to media members on Monday.

Enforcement of the new menu-labeling rules has been delayed multiple times since the requirements were first introduced in late 2014. The FDA’s menu-labeling regulations were slated to take effect on May 5, 2017, but the agency again pushed back enforcement until today.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said, via a press release that the agency plans “to work collaboratively with covered establishments to help them meet the requirements so that more consumers will be able to access and use nutritional information that will now be at their fingertips or in front of them on a menu board.”

“The FDA will allow covered entities a reasonable opportunity to make adjustments to bring themselves into compliance,” he added.

In a press release, Beer Institute president and CEO Jim McGreevy said the new regulations will allow consumers to make more informed choices.

“The Beer Institute and our members believe providing complete information about calories and other dietary information for each drink will better enable consumers to make an informed choice should they choose to include an alcohol beverage with a meal,” McGreevy said, via a press release.

In 2016, the Beer Institute launched the “Brewers’ Voluntary Disclosure Initiative,” in which beer manufacturers and importers agreed to list the calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol by volume of their products.

In an email to Brewbound, the Brewers Association (BA) noted that it has been working with the government agency as well as retailers to comply with the new regulations. In response to concerns from small brewers who have voiced concerns about having to conduct costly nutritional analyses in order to stay on tap at popular chains, the BA has developed a beer nutrient database that reflects the average nutritional value of more than 40 popular craft styles.

“It will be interesting to see if the information impacts what people eat and drink in chains, and if menus will change if people use the information in their decision-making, and whether brewer portfolios will change in response,” BA director Paul Gatza told Brewbound in an email. “There is more certainty for the ways restaurants will label beers, but less certainty on whether they will label some of the high-calorie cocktails or leave them off menus to be treated as food on display.”

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