Rockville, MD—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking public comments as they draft guidelines to help implement a new federal law that requires the posting of calorie content and other nutritional information on menus at certain chain restaurants, similar retail food operations and vending machines.

The new law, Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act, stipulates that restaurants and similar retail food establishments that have 20 or more locations must list calorie content information on menus and menu boards their drive-through menu boards.  The number of calories must be listed next to each standard menu item. Another stipulation of this law is that the menu boards must feature a prominently placed statement about suggested daily caloric intake.

This law states that upon customer request, other nutritional information in written form must also be available such as fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, complex, carbohydrates, sugars, fiber and total protein. The menu board should also have a clear and prominent statement alerting consumers that the other nutritional information is available per request.

When it comes to self-service food or buffet style restaurants, nutritional information should still be readily available to the consumers. Signs or labels should be posted near each food item with the caloric information or with the calories per serving.

As for the vending machines, operators must provide a sign in close proximity to each of the food items or at least provide visible nutritional information at the point of purchase. FDA regulates that the calories must be made known to the consumer before purchasing to ensure no complications or misunderstandings when it comes to the nutritional value of food.

Establishments with less than 20 locations can volunteer to register to be subject to the new requirements.
FDA must come up with these regulations to carry out provisions regarding the new law by March 23, 2011. Members of the food industry are welcome to offer comments and suggestions in docket number FDA- 2010-N-0298 at  The docket has been open since July 7, 2010 and will remain open for 60 days.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine September 2010 (published ahead of print on July 27, 2010)