Understanding FDA Menu Labeling Enforcement For Restaurants
Over the past few weeks, I’ve written a lot about the upcoming FDA menu labeling deadline, which is on May 7, 2018. It’s just around the corner, and restaurant, convenient store, and cafe owners have been working hard to complete all the necessary steps before the compliance date.
I’ve also written a lot about the menu labeling rules and regulations, especially with the recent changes from the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act. There have been some noteworthy updates that will hopefully make things easier for those who are responsible for getting their menu labeling ready on time.
The one thing I haven’t talked a lot about, however, is the FDA menu labeling enforcement for restaurants. In fact, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this lately. So, if you too are wondering how exactly the FDA plans to enforce the menu labeling laws and what will happen if you fail to comply with their specific guidelines, keep reading because I’m going to explain the consequences of non-compliance.
FDA Menu Labeling Enforcement: The Consequences of Non-Compliance
Before you get too concerned about being punished by the FDA for making a little mistake with your menu labeling, let’s talk through the facts. What we know for sure is that the FDA is not going to punish small mistakes in menu labeling, like accidentally overlooking the calorie counts for one menu item or using a font size for the calorie counts that doesn’t quite meet the rules outlined by the FDA (so long as the calorie counts are still legible).
Likewise, variation in the preparation of a menu item that slightly alters the calorie count (i.e. adding extra mayonnaise to a sandwich) or failure to round your calorie counts in accordance to the FDA’s guidelines are considered small violations that likely wouldn’t warrant a reaction from the FDA.
If, however, there is a larger violation that is either made intentionally or blatantly goes against the public health priorities of the menu labeling law, the FDA may require you to take action to fix these errors. Failure to comply will typically be discovered during a routine FDA inspection of your establishment, at which point you will receive a letter outlining the violations you’ve made.
Under the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, you will be granted a 90-day grace period to make the necessary changes before further enforcement action is taken. It’s important to note that this act accounts for human error (i.e. slight inaccuracy of calorie information) and will not take action for slight variances in calorie information or nutrition information. Failure to comply with any requirements in the letters, however, within the 90-day period may result in a fine.
Tips for Complying with the FDA Guidelines
So, how do you ensure that you don’t make any major mistakes when complying with the FDA’s menu labeling regulations? I’ve got a few suggestions that will help make sure that you follow the rules and don’t receive any negative feedback or letters of warning from the FDA:
- Use an online nutrition analysis software: While slight variances in calorie counts are acceptable, there is a fine line between what is considered human error and what is considered deception. Using an online nutrition analysis software with database analysis, like MenuCalc, will give you the most accurate results possible. With database analysis, all you have to do is create an account, enter your recipes, and watch as the calories and nutrition information instantly generate. As a bonus, it is much less expensive than other methods of nutrition analysis.
- There are many other benefits to online nutrition analysis software as well, so definitely look into it. For example, if you do end up receiving a letter from the FDA informing you that you have violated the labeling laws in another way, you can fix the problem quickly by signing into your account, reanalyzing your food items, and implementing the changes right away.
- Work with an expert menu labeling consultant: If you’re feeling confused and unsure about the complex FDA menu labeling guidelines, it’s important to know that you are not alone. MenuCalc, for instance, has a team of expert menu labeling consultants who work with people like you to make sure their menu labeling complies with FDA guidelines. I definitely recommend working with a consultant if you feel you could benefit from having an extra pair of eyes on your menu. It really does wonders to reduce the stress of compliance, and you can rest assured that there won’t be a single mistake with your labeling.
Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with any FDA menu labeling enforcement actions. If you do, however, no need to stress. Remember, as long as you fix the problem within 90 days, there won’t be any consequences. And while these rules can be finicky and enforcement may seem a little unfair, remember that the public is depending on you. After all, menu labeling compliance is important for the future of America.
MenuCalc’s online nutrition analysis software and expert consultants make FDA menu labeling compliance as easy as possible. To learn more about our software or to create an account, contact us today.