USA Restaurant Menu Labelling – What’s up? What’s Next?

sit-down-restaurant-menu (1)US national menu labelling is expected to come into force this summer. The new regulations aim to ensure calorie labelling on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, retail food establishments, and vending machines with 20 or more locations.  We recently joined a US National Restaurant Association info session where we heard insights about what to expect next.

The intent of the menu labelling law is that: “People need nutritional information to exercise personal responsibility at the point of ordering in restaurants.” As such, the following 3 key features are expected on US restaurant menus and menu boards:

1. The number of calories will be disclosed with the word “Calories’ or ‘Cal’ posted next to number.
2. The following statement to help put the number of calories into context: “A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however individual needs may vary.”
3. Additional nutrients (such as fat and sodium) will be available upon request, but not necessarily posted on the menu.

Mandatory menu labelling is a controversial issue for reasons that include menu variability and questions about long-term impact. However, health and consumer groups welcome the calorie and nutrient information regulations.

Research shows that seeing calories on the menu impacts immediate purchase decisions and that consumers tend to underestimate the caloric content of menu items, especially those with higher calories.  It’s important to put calorie education in context so it does not become an issue whether the menu item is 400 or 420 calories. Menu labelling is about providing information so that consumers can make an informed choice between something that’s 1200 calories versus 200 calories.

Will Health Canada follow the US restaurant menu labelling? Only time will tell, and we’ll keep you posted. More information about next steps in menu labelling is available by contacting us.

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