FDA menu labeling beverages is part of the legislation the FDA requires of restaurants and similar retail food establishments. The menu labeling law goes into effect on December 1, 2016. Menu labeling regulations require calorie and other nutrient information be provided for beverages listed on restaurant menus. Due to limited information available on alcoholic beverages at this time, we’ll focus on non-alcoholic beverages. We’ll report further on alcoholic beverages when the FDA releases additional guidance.
Beverages That Are Not Self-Service
FDA menu labeling beverages requires calories be declared on the menu or menu board. The calories should be based on the full volume of the cup the drink is served in without any added ice. An exception can be made if a standard beverage and/or ice fill that is a fixed amount is in practice. In this case, calories declared should be based on such standard beverage or ice fills. Servers must abide by the standard fill by using equipment programmed to dispense a specific quantity or by using cups that have marking that enable employees to manually add a specific quantity.
Calorie information should be listed clearly and prominently on menus and menu boards next to the name or price of the beverage (i.e., 150 calories).
FDA menu labeling beverages that are self-service require calories be based on the full volume of the cup served without ice. Calories must be listed on a sign at the dispenser or near the beverages and must be visible at the time the food is ordered. Calorie declarations must be accompanied by the term “fluid ounces” and, if applicable, the description of the cup size such as, “small,” or “medium.” ( i.e., “Cola: 150 calories per 12 fluid ounces (small)”).
General Information for Labeling Beverages
When a menu lists flavors or varieties of a beverage, such varieties of soda (i.e., orange soda, cola, diet cola), the calories must be declared separately for each listed flavor or variety.
When the menu does not list flavors or varieties for an entire individual variable menu item, and only includes a general description of the variable menu item (i.e., soft drinks), here is how calories should be listed:
- If there are only two choices available (i.e., diet cola and cola), the calories must be declared with a slash between the two calorie declarations. (i.e., 0/150 calories). For self-service sign; (Diet Cola/Cola: 0/150 calories per 12 fluid ounces (small)).
- When the menu includes a choice of three or more choices (i.e., soft drinks), the different calorie amounts will be presented in a range (i.e., 0-150 calories). For self-service signs calories for each flavor must be listed separately rather than a range.
- If flavors or varieties of beverages have the same calorie amounts (after rounding), the calorie declaration for such flavors or varieties can be listed as a single calorie declaration. The calorie declaration must specify that the calorie amount listed represents the calorie amounts for each individual flavor or variety.
Beverages with a Nutrition Facts panel on the can/bottle
Restaurants are not required to provide written nutrition information on beverages that have Nutrition Facts labels on their container and can be selected by the customer from a case before paying. This rule does not apply to beverages that are kept behind the counter and handed to the consumer after the consumer has paid for it.