Woman reading restaurant menu

Menu and Vending Labeling: Frequently Asked Questions

Denis Storey
February 3, 2017

On-Demand Webinar: “Food Regulations 101”

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On Demand Webinar: “Food Regulations 101”

FDA attorney Marc Sanchez discusses the primary regulatory agencies in the United States, what’s regulated and why, sources of law, and practical suggestions to put that regulatory knowledge into practice.

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Even after the FDA published the final rules for menu and vending labeling, questions persisted about what was covered, what’s wasn’t, and who must comply. To help achieve some clarity, TraceGains spoke with food policy and regulation expert Beth Johnson, CEO, and founder of advisory firm Food Directions.

I sell candy in my retail store. Suppose I sell full boxes, but also individual pieces sold by weight. Does this rule apply?

Not in terms of the candy sold by weight, no. This particular instance relates to a bulk issue, so you wouldn’t have to follow labeling rules. You would, however, have to adhere to the regulations if the candy were on a menu where someone could order standard amounts.

Who is enforcing the menu and vending labeling law?

The FDA writes the regulation and enforces the law. However, they’re working with state and local officials to help implement enforcement. In reality, it’s probably going to be at the state and local level in the future, but officially it’s the FDA.

Can you over label?

When you’re talking about law and regulation, yes, you can. An example of over labeling might include an instance where regulators perceive the information that you’re relaying is not necessarily accurate (e.g., “natural”). But when you’re talking about over labeling from a consumer’s perspective, that’s a significant question. For example, GMOs are a big point of contention for consumers. It’s not necessarily safety-related but more of a choice to know. One could think this is too much to put on the label, while others could disagree.

Is it possible that calories will be different at different locations?

Questions like this are why regulations insist that manufacturers label at the individual location. 

Can you explain how a packaged item sold in a convenience cooler (e.g., packaged sandwich) will be affected?

If it doesn’t have a label already, the location will need to provide stickers or some other form of communication (e.g., a magnet) that’s attached to the freezer/refrigerator. Either way, calorie information needs to be available somewhere.

Are there specific guidelines on pizzas when it comes to labeling?

There are specific regulations on requirements for pizza and how it’s supposed to be labeled. There are still many questions about whether or not what is required will be confusing to consumers, but the rule does go into standards, requirements, ranges, etc.

How are restaurant buffets affected?

The rule does talk about providing information on a serving size basis with tags or labels. However, the consumer has to be able to come up with the math themselves to determine calories after a single serving.

TraceGains webinar, “Food Regulations 101,” covers the basics of food regulations, so companies don’t have to struggle to learn them the hard way. Watch the on-demand webinar here