In Calorie Counts on Menus, Menu labeling
In addition to calorie information, restaurants must provide specific nutrition information so diners can make informed choices.

In addition to calorie information, restaurants must provide specific nutrition information so diners can make informed choices. Image source: Unsplash user Shangyou Shi.

A year ago, I was writing about menu labeling compliance thinking it was upon us—only for it to be delayed for a year. It was rather anticlimactic at the time, but in the end, it all worked out. Over the past year, some of the stringent guidelines around menu labeling were clarified through the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, and businesses had more time to get their calorie counts and nutrition information in order.

Despite the delay and the clarification of what is expected of restaurants and food establishments, I am still getting asked if restaurants are required to provide nutritional information as well as calorie counts. I don’t blame folks for this—there has been a lot of focus in the media on calorie labeling without much talk of the additional nutritional information businesses are required to provide. With that in mind, let’s have a look at what kind of nutritional information you need to make available to your diners and how to present this information in compliance with FDA guidelines.

What Kind of Nutritional Information Are Restaurants Required to Provide?

By now, most of us in the food and restaurant industry are familiar with the FDA guidelines about restaurants with 20 locations or more posting calorie on menus, so let’s skip over the calorie requirements and focus on the additional nutrition information that must also be provided. Perhaps the reason there has been some confusion around this is due to the fact that restaurants aren’t actually required to include additional nutrition information directly on their menus.

So, what do I mean when I say additional nutritional information? I’m talking about the following information:

  • Calories from fat
  • Total fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Total carbohydrates
  • Fiber
  • Sugars
  • Protein  

For each menu item that requires a total calorie count, each of the above values must also be provided. Luckily, if you use an FDA-compliant online nutrition analysis software like MenuCalc to calculate your calorie counts, values for each of the above categories will be instantly generated, so you can get all this information at once.

The reason this information must be available to diners is that calorie counts don’t by themselves provide a holistic nutritional picture of a food item. While calories indicate how much energy is in that particular food, they say nothing of how nutritionally dense a food is or where the calories come from in that food. Together, though, calories and this additional nutrition information provide a complete picture of a food, making it easier for diners to make an educated choice about what to eat. Although many diners may be curious to know more details about the contents of their food, this is particularly important for customers with special dietary needs.

How to Provide Additional Nutritional Information

Unlike calorie counts, additional nutrition information does not need to be provided on your menu itself. As you can likely imagine, your menu would look more like a novel if you included all that information alongside each item!

Instead, the FDA requires that establishments include a statement on their menus or menu boards letting diners know that additional information is available. The statement should read something like this: “Additional nutrition information available upon request.” It needs to be written in a clear, prominent font so diners can easily see it.

How you then choose to provide the additional nutrition information is up to you. Here are some ways the FDA suggests providing it:

  • In booklets or tablets that you can lend to diners.
  • In paper handouts that diners can keep.
  • On counter cards in establishments where orders are placed at a counter.
  • On posters placed around your restaurant.
  • On tray liners or paper menus in fast food restaurants.

If most of your food orders are placed online or over the phone at your establishment and you’ve provided calorie counts on your online menu, you must also include a statement like the one above and make the additional nutrition information available on your website.

Ensuring FDA Compliance

There is a lot to do when it comes to gathering additional nutrition information for your restaurant, but don’t panic! If you use an online nutrition analysis software, you can have this information ready in no time. With software like MenuCalc, all you have to do is create an account, input your recipes, and the information you need for compliance will be instantly generated.

If you don’t feel like you have the time to spend entering all your recipes, one of our menu labeling consultants would be happy to do it for you. They can also help you organize the information and present it in a way that suits your restaurant. Then, before you know it, you can breathe a deep sigh of relief knowing you have checked off every step needed to ensure compliance. 

MenuCalc is an online nutrition analysis software trusted by industry professionals to provide accurate calorie counts and nutrition information for their menu items. To get started, contact us today or try our free 15-day trial.

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