Restaurants across the nation are scrambling to understand the new FDA menu labeling laws and learn what they need to do to be compliant by December 1, 2015. On The Menu is positioned to help restaurants comply with the laws. We believe understanding some of the FDA menu labeling key terms and definitions lays the ground work for navigating the regulations. We’ve hand-picked a few terms that might be useful for your restaurant establishment to know.
Menu or Menu Board Primary Writing
Menus and menu boards are defined as primary writings. The primary writing is what the customer uses to make an order selection, including, but not limited to, breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus; dessert menus; beverages menus; children’s menus; other specialty menus; electronic menus; and menus on the Internet. The importance of identifying primary writings is necessary, as calories are required to be displayed on these writings.
Determining whether a writing is considered a primary writing from which a customer makes an order selection depends on a number of factors, including whether the writing lists the name of a standard menu item (or an image depicting the standard menu item) and the price of the standard menu item, and whether the writing can be used by a customer to make an order selection at the time the customer is viewing the writing.
The primary writing menu may appear in different forms:
- Single sheet of paper
- Menu board
- Mailer to a customer’s home (if the customer will use it to make an order selection)
Conversely, the customer does not make an order selection from a secondary writing. Examples of a secondary writing may include tray liners, billboards, coupons, sales flyers and posters. It is not required that calories be posted on secondary writings.
A food that is usually eaten on the premises, while walking away, or soon after arriving at another location, and either 1) served for immediate consumption or 2) processed and prepared primarily in a retail establishment ready for consumption. Posting calories and having additional nutrition information available is required on restaurant-type food. Restaurant-type food also includes the following categories.
Self-service food is restaurant-type food that is available at a salad bar, buffet line, cafeteria line, or similar self-service facility where the customer serves themselves. Self-service food also includes self-service beverages.
Food on display is restaurant-type food that is visible to the customer before the customer makes a selection, so long as there’s not an ordinary expectation of further preparation by the consumer before consumption.
A standard menu item is restaurant-type food that is routinely included on a menu or menu board or routinely offered as a self-service food or food on display.
A variable menu item is a standard menu item that comes in different flavors, varieties, or combinations, and is listed as a single menu item.
A combination meal is a standard menu item that consists of more than one food item, for example a meal that includes a sandwich, a side dish, and a drink. Some combination meals may include a variable menu item or be a variable menu item where the components may vary. For example, the side dish may vary among several options or the drinks may vary and the customer selects which of these items will be included in the meal.
Foods Exempt From Menu Labeling
There are a number of foods that are exempt from menu labeling to include the following.
A custom order where the food order is prepared in a specific manner based on an individual customer’s request, which requires the establishment to deviate from its usual preparation of a standard menu item.
A daily special menu item that is prepared and offered for sale on a particular day, that is not routinely listed on a menu or menu board and is promoted as a special menu item for that particular day.
A food that is part of a customary market test that appear on a menu or menu board for less than 90 consecutive days in order to test consumer acceptance of the product.
A temporary menu item that appear on a menu or menu board for less than a total of 60 days per calendar year.