FDA implemented a calories on the menu law as part of the FDA menu labeling regulations that go into effect on December 1, 2016. We’ll explain which foods and beverages must follow the calories on the menu law, which foods and beverages are exempt, and how to display the caloric values.
Which foods and beverages must have calories posted?
According to the FDA, all restaurant-type food and beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) must follow the calories on the menu law.
Here are some examples of menu items that must have calories posted:
- Foods and/or beverages ordered from a menu
- Foods purchased at a drive-through
- Take-out or delivery foods
- Foods on display
- Foods you serve yourself from a salad or hot food bar
- Self-service beverages
What are the exceptions?
Not all items are required to follow the calories on the menu law. The exemptions to calorie labeling include:
- Custom orders
- Beer or bottles of liquor behind a bar or mixed drinks ordered from the bar that do not appear on a menu or menu board.
- Daily Specials
- Food offered for sale for less than 90 consecutive days as part of a market test
- Temporary menu items that appear on a menu or menu board for less than a total of 60 days per calendar year.
- Draft beers that are on rotation no more than eight weeks (less than 60 days per calendar year)
- Condiments on the table (unless listed on the menu)
- Grab and Go foods/beverages already labeled with a Nutrition Facts panel
Where should the calories appear and how should they be listed?
The number of calories listed should be the number of calories the item has when it is prepared in the “usual manner” by the establishment. The regulations for how they should be posted are:
- The word “Calories” or “Cal” must appear in a type size no smaller than that of the name or the price of the associated standard menu item, whichever is smaller.
- Calories on the menu or menu board must be listed either next to the name or the price of the associated standard menu item or as a heading above a column listing the number of calories for each standard menu item.
- Calories should appear in the same color, or a color at least as conspicuous as that used for the name of the associated standard menu item with the same contrasting background or a background at least as contrasting as that used for the name of the associated standard menu item.
- In addition, calorie information must be declared on signs adjacent to and clearly associated with self-service foods and foods on display that are standard menu items. The calorie declaration must be visible at the same time as the food/beverage is visible.
- If the calorie declaration is provide on a sign that does not include the food’s name, price, or both, the calorie declaration, accompanied by the term “Calories, or “Cal” and the amount of the serving of displayed food item on which the calorie declaration is based must be clear and conspicuous (e.g., Coleslaw: 125 Cal/Scoop).
- For self-service beverages, calorie declarations must be accompanied by the term “fluid ounces” and, if applicable, the description of the cup size (e.g., “small,” “medium”).