Does Menu Labeling Compliance Still Have You Scratching Your Head?

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Does Menu Labeling Compliance Still Have You Scratching Your Head?

By Jessica Williams, Food Forward Thinking LLC - 01/16/2019

Let’s face it: No one has ever said menu labeling compliance is fun. Reactions range from “yawn” to “I’m decidedly uninterested” or some combination of both. It may generate panic in some of us, but definitely does not generate excitement for many of us.

Menu labeling compliance has garnered quite a bit of attention recently since it became law for thousands of convenience foodservice locations in the United States on May 7, 2018. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Menu Labeling Laws, as outlined in 21 CFR 101.11, are designed to assist shoppers in making sound decisions for their own nutrition.

As a result, convenience and grocery retailers have been scrambling to first determine if they are considered a “covered establishment” by the rules and, if so, many have been left scratching their heads about what to do next.

What do you need to know?

  • “Covered establishments” are those that meet all of these rules: 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, and offering substantially the same type of menu items.
  • Calories must be displayed on the menuboard, on the product label, or in close proximity of the item for sale.
  • Additional information must be available upon request: total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugar and protein.

You may be surprised to learn that:

  • Covered establishments can include bakeries, delis, grocery stores and even concession stands within amusement parks, sports arenas, movie theaters and bowling alleys.
  • Some food is exempt from the rule, such as general-use condiments, custom orders and items that are part of a 90-day market test.
  • Upon request by the FDA, covered establishments will be required to supply to the FDA the information used to determine calories and other nutritional values, including both the data and the methods used to calculate the values.

If you’re still scratching your head over menu labeling compliance, here are four steps you can take:

  1. Get organized. Gather a list of ingredients and detailed recipes that include weighted portions.
  2. Take a close look at food order guides and eliminate redundant items and anything that falls outside of your standard recipes.
  3. Know the recipes that are being executed at store level. Many foodservice managers will discover that some team members like to put their “own spin” on standard recipes. While we all appreciate creativity, following standards has now become critical.
  4. Outsource it to experts. Not many foodservice projects make sense to outsource, but nutrition facts calculations can be done remotely and require a tremendous focus on tedious details.

The FDA also has issued some really helpful guides to help navigate the details of compliance. These can be found on the agency’s website.

Jessica Williams is the founder of Food Forward Thinking LLC, which supports quality foodservice operations in convenience stores, restaurants and grocery chains. Her background includes product development for convenience stores and quick-service restaurants. Williams previously led fresh food product development and quality assurance at Thorntons Inc., a convenience store chain with nearly 200 locations across six states. Her specialty is elevating operations consistency and menu labeling compliance for growing chains. She can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News