When did the Menu Labeling Act take effect?
Phase 1 - by January 1, 2010
Chain restaurants are required to make available at the point of purchase the following information in written format for each standard menu item:
- Total calories
- Total grams of saturated fat
- Total grams of trans fat
- Total grams of carbohydrates
- Total milligrams of sodium
Multiple formats can be used to display this information including: a supplemental menu, a menu insert, a brochures or a pamphlet. A copy of nutrient information shall be made available to each customer who requests it, and a restaurant should not require customers to return this information.
Phase 2 - : by January 1, 2011
Chain restaurants are required to post the following information on menus, menu boards and food tags:
- Total calories must be posted in a conspicuous place in a font size no smaller than the price, or the least prominent font size of the description of the item.
- A statement listing the daily nutrient intake amounts of calories, saturated fat, and sodium.
- A statement that additional nutritional information is available upon request.
To whom does the Menu Labeling Act apply?
What is considered a chain restaurant by the Menu Labeling Act?
The law applies to chain restaurants that meet all of the following criteria:
- Are one of 15 or more locations within the United States
- Has 80% or more of standardized menu items served in at least 14 restaurants
- Operates under the same name as other affiliated restaurants
- Operates in the state of Oregon
What restaurants are exempt from the Menu Labeling Act?
This regulation does NOT apply to:
- Cafeterias including health care facilities and educational facilities
- Movie theaters
- Restaurants with fewer than 15 facilities within the country
- Railroad dining cars
- Bed and Breakfasts
- Temporary restaurants
What if my restaurant is an individually-owned franchise?
Restaurants that operate under the same brand name are subject to the new menu labeling requirements, regardless of whether they are under corporate ownership or an individual franchise.
What menu items are exempt from this law?
Any condiments, prepackaged unopened foods that are subject to the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), customized menu items that have been changed from the standard menu item, or any food product that is not part of a combination meal on the menu for less than 90 days of the year are exempt.
Can I include extra nutrient information such as fiber, sugar, and allergens?
Yes. Chain restaurants are allowed to provide truthful additional nutrient information.
How do I account for nutrient variations when differences in preparation, ingredients & custom orders?
A chain restaurant may post a truthful disclaimer notifying their customers that there may be slight variations in nutrient content across servings due to differences in preparation, ingredients, inconsistent serving sizes, and custom orders.
How should menu items that are intended for more than one person be labeled?
The menu item's nutrient information will be listed per serving and the suggested serving size will be included. For example, for a pizza that is intended for more than one person, the nutrient values would be calculated based on what the chain restaurant determines to be a serving. If the chain restaurant determines a slice as the serving size, then the nutrient information for that slice needs to be listed. This does not apply to appetizers or desserts.
Who determines the suggested serving size?
The restaurant determines the standard serving size. This is relevant for nutrient disclosure relating to items intended for more than one person. The restaurant is NOT required to use the standard serving sizes determined by the USDA and referenced in the NLEA.
How do the requirements apply to self-service items and buffets?
For self-service items and buffets, the nutrient information must specify the size of the individual serving (determined by the restaurant) and the typical nutrient values for an individual serving. The serving size must be based off of standard measurements (e.g. cup, ounce, tablespoon, gram) and be determined by the utensil used for the food (e.g. 1 ladle, 1 spoon, 1 spatula) or based on the individual serving as determined and displayed by the chain restaurant (e.g. pre-cut brownies, lasagna cut into squares).
What if the menu item is served in a combination with other menu items?
Labeling of each individual combination meal is not required as long as the nutrient information is available in written format for each individual item within the combination meal. Items that are sold as a part of a combination meal that are also sold on the standard menu but have different names must be listed twice. For example, if a kids meal hamburger is the same as a small hamburger, it must be listed as "kids meal hamburger" and as "small hamburger" with the nutrient information provided. No ranges can be used for combination meals for the written nutrient values.
How are the nutrient values calculated when the menu item comes in different flavors and varieties?
Some menu items that are available in more than one flavor or variety may be listed with ranges if they fall within the following guidelines:
- If the nutrient values are within 10% of the median value, the median value alone can be listed for all variations of the menu item.
- If the nutrient values are within 20% of the median value, the list of ranges can be listed for all the variations of the menu item.
- If the nutrient value ranges are beyond the above-stated ranges, each standard menu item needs to be listed separately.
How are the nutrient values calculated and listed for menu items that come in more than one size?
Menu items that come in more than one size must be listed and calculated as separate menu items. No ranges are allowed for different sizes of the same menu item. For example, small, medium and large chocolate milk shakes all need to be calculated and listed separately, not as one menu item.
Are chain restaurants required to include recommended daily intake values in nutrition information?
Chain restaurants may publish a statement providing information about the recommended daily intake amounts for calories, saturated fat and sodium as follows: "Recommended limits for a 2,000 calorie daily diet are 20 grams of saturated fat and 1,700 milligrams of sodium."
Does nutrition information for beverages have to be available?
Yes, unless the beverage is in a sealed manufactured package from a company that complies with the Federal Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990.
Do the labeling requirements apply to alcoholic beverages?
Nutrition labeling must be provided for alcoholic beverages that are standard menu items on printed menus, menu boards, or food tags including signature and mixed drinks. These rules are currently under consideration. You may use the following average nutritional values for beer, wine and spirits:
- Red or white wine - 5 ounces
122 cal; 4 g carb; 7 mg of sodium
- Light beer - 12 ounces
103 cal; 6 g carb; 14 mg of sodium
- Regular beer - 12 ounces
153 cal; 13 g carb; 14 mg of sodium
- Distilled spirits (80 proof gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey) - 1.5 ounces: 96 cal
If the supplier changes, do the nutrient values have to be recalculated?
No. A chain food restaurant will not have to change their nutrient calculations if their suppliers change, provided the preparation is the same. However, if the supplier change has modified the calorie information by greater than 20%, the restaurant has to change its nutritional disclosures to reflect this.
How is the nutrition information calculated and checked for accuracy?
Restaurants can use a variety of options to determine the nutrition content of their food, these include: laboratory testing and analysis, a nutrient database, and verifiable reference values based off of the USDA Standards.
Do the nutrient values need to be exact or is some rounding permitted?
Restaurants have the option of listing exact values or using the following rounding rules:
- If the item has more than 50 calories, you may round the total to the closest value divisible by 10. For example, a milkshake that is 453 calories can be rounded down to 450 calories.
- If the item has less than 50 calories, you may round to the closest value divisible by 5. For example, a side salad that is 44 calories can be rounded up to 45 calories.
- If the item has more than 5 grams of saturated fat, you may round to the nearest gram.
- If the item has equal to or less than 5 grams of saturated fat, you may round to the nearest 0.5 gram.
- If the item has below 0.5 grams of saturated fat, you may round down to 0.
- If the item has more than 5 grams of carbohydrates, you may round to the nearest gram.
- If the item has equal to or less than 5 grams of carbohydrates, you may round to the nearest 0.5 gram.
- If the item has below 0.5 grams of carbohydrates, you may round down to 0.
- If the item has more than 140 milligrams of sodium, you may round to the nearest value divisibly by 10.
- If the item has a value between 5 and 140 milligrams of sodium, you may round to the nearest value divisibly by 5.
- If the item has a value below 5 milligrams of sodium, you may round down to 0.
How is trans fat calculated and listed?
Chain restaurants must follow the Food and Drug Administration guidelines for labeling trans fat. This means that trans fat does not have to be listed if the total trans fat in the food is less than 0.5 grams per labeled serving.
What if my chain restaurant does not comply with the Menu Labeling Act?
Chain restaurants are required by law to provide nutrient information to anyone who requests it. If this information is not available, the chain restaurant is not in compliance with the law.
Will restaurants be fined if they don't comply?
According to the Menu Labeling Act, restaurants can be fined now that the second phase of the Menu Labeling Act has taken effect. If a chain restaurant is found in violation of the law, they can be fined anywhere from $250 to $1,000 for not posting calorie values. However, at this time, OHA does not have resources to enforce the Menu Labeling Act.