Menu labeling law enforcement starts May 7: Last-minute checklist

| by Betsy Craig
Menu labeling law enforcement starts May 7: Last-minute checklist

With full FDA backing this year, menu labeling regulations will be enforced starting, Monday, May 7. Just last year, of course, the enforcement date was changed mere hours away from that going into effect, but now, it's going to happen, so it pays to do some last-minute double-checking. 

To that end, compiled below are our top compliance tips to get your [dining] house in order in the few days left before enforcement starts.  

  • Get your rounding right. Did you know that each nutrient has different rounding rules and different insignificant values? And did you know that to a trained eye, it's really obvious when this isn't done correctly? 

Rounding is such an easy thing to watch for, it wouldn't be surprising if that's what inspectors hone in on. This guide can be used to help you or an accredited third-party consultant can give you your values already rounded to perfection. 

  • Know your reasonable basis. The FDA has not defined an allowable variance regarding the accuracy of posted nutritional values. Rather, they are requiring a "reasonable basis" behind a covered establishment's numbers. 

         You need to know how your analysis was done, and why your numbers are what they are.While you don't need every detail of the analysis on hand, if the           FDA requests specifics as to how your numbers were derived you'll be required to give them a detailed explanation. 

  • Don't forget the importance of training. While menu labeling has been a part of the industry for more than eight years, store-level staff might not have experience with it yet. The importance of following printed recipes and order guides needs to be communicated to the team members at the front line serving guests. They should also be prepped with answers to frequently asked questions, such as, "Where is your additional nutrition information?" Or, "What does this range of numbers mean?" 
  • Documentation is key.We've already covered the fact hat written recipes are critical. However, that's not the only thing that should be well documented. Let's say you source three hamburger buns depending on the market, but have a plan to handle the nutritional differences in your posted information. That should be documented.

         Maybe you have an agreement in place with your supplier as to how they'll handle any sudden product shortages, so your nutrition information isn't                     impacted. That should be documented. Anything that helps further prove due diligence in presenting accurate nutrition information to the public should               be in writing and securely stored. 

  • Know this is just the beginning. If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to want a glass of milk. If you give a consumer nutrition information, they're going to want an allergen chart.

Today's diners are demanding more and more transparency from the foodservice establishments that serve them. They want to know what's in their food, and how they can find a meal that meets their special dietary needs.

Assuming it was done correctly by the time a covered establishment has put in the effort to analyze its menu items, it's not much more work to complete an allergen review as well. As long as it's accurate and reliable, it's the next logical piece of information to present to guests. 

So, although spring fever may just be starting to set in, but there's no time to waste in getting compliant with the menu labeling regulations. We're just a few short weeks away from the May 7 deadline, and this time (I think finally) it's here to stay. 

Photo: iStock

Topics: Back Office, Business Strategy and Profitability, Customer Service / Experience, Digital Signage, Display Technology, Food & Beverage, Food Trucks, Insurance / Risk Management, Legal Issues, Menu Boards

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