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FDA Issues Final Menu and Vending Machine Labeling Requirements

Nov 25, 2014

UPDATED: December 3, 2014

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finalized two rules requiring that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments and vending machines to help consumers make informed decisions about meals and snacks.

IDFA had reviewed FDA’s proposed rules for menu and vending machine calorie labeling issued in 2011 and issued brief comments supporting the Food Marketing Institute's request to exempt  grocery store that provide food for immediate consumption. However, the final rule includes grocery stores and convenience stores that sell restaurant type foods as defined below. 

Menu Labeling

The menu labeling final rule applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, and offering substantially the same menu items for sale. The menu labeling final rule also requires calorie labeling for certain alcoholic beverages and certain foods sold at entertainment venues such as movie theaters and amusement parks.

In the rule, FDA clarifies that certain foods purchased in grocery stores or other retail food establishments that are typically intended for more than one person to eat and require additional preparation before consuming, such as pounds of deli meats and cheeses and large-size deli salads, are not covered.

The proposed rule raised a number of questions about how restaurants would practically label dairy foods that are offered in a wide variety of sizes, or flavors, or with different toppings such as an ice cream cone or ice cream sundae. The final rule provides two different options for displaying the calories of foods with different flavors or varieties.

For an item that is listed with a general description such as “ice cream,” if only two options are offered, then the calories for both are displayed (e.g., “ice cream: 150/250 calories). When more than two options are available, a range will be presented with the lowest calorie variety, flavor or combination and the highest variety, flavor or combination (e.g., “100-250”). The final rule also provided for calorie labeling of toppings that can be added to the basic preparation of a menu item to be listed separately (e.g., ice cream scoop: 300 cal.; toppings: almonds, 25 cal., and fudge, 50 cal.).

Initially the pizza industry expressed concern about how to label the calories for the vast number of combinations of crusts, sauces, toppings and cheeses used on pizza. FDA previously proposed that the calorie amounts would need to be provided for the item as purchased, such as the whole pizza rather than an individual slice. FDA’s final proposal, however, will allow labeling on calories either for the whole pizza as usually prepared (e.g., “pizza pie: 1,600 calories) or per slice as long as the total number of servings per pizza is declared (e.g.; “pizza pie: 200 cal./slice, 8 slices).

The final rule also provided detailed information on the size of the calorie information on menus and menu boards. The type size must be no smaller than the name of the menu item or price, whichever is smaller.

To help consumers understand the significance of the calorie information in the context of a total daily diet, FDA is requiring a succinct statement that says, “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary” to be included on menus and menu boards. The menu labeling final rule also requires covered establishments to provide, upon consumer request, written nutrition information about total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and protein.

Restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are covered, including those that voluntarily register with FDA to comply with the menu labeling requirements, will have one year from the date of publication of the menu labeling final rule to comply with the requirements.

Vending Machine Labeling

The vending machine final rule requires operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie information for food sold from vending machines, subject to certain exceptions. IDFA also previously filed comments on the proposed rule supporting the National Automated Merchandising Association (NAMA) comments that asked for wide variety of options to display calorie labeling, including if the calorie information was already visible on the package to be vended. The final rule allows for a number of different ways to display calories for vending machines, including an exemption if the calories, serving size and serving per container information is visible on the vending machine food.

One method that would meet the requirements of calorie labeling for vending machines would be front-of-pack (FOP) calorie declaration on the package, as long as this is visible as the product is displayed. The final rule clarified that, as with other FOP declarations, this would be considered a nutrient content claim, and full nutrition would then be required on the food package itself. This statement will be required to be at least 50 percent of the largest printed matter on the label and be presented in a type color and contrasting background color to be clearly distinguishable.

Vending machine operators that are covered, including those that voluntarily register with FDA to comply with the vending machine labeling requirements, will have two years from the date of publication of the vending machine labeling final rule to comply with the requirements, meaning that vended products must be labeled by December 1, 2016.  

These new regulations will require establishments that sell restaurant type food and vending companies to request up-to-date information on calorie information from their suppliers. The dairy industry will need to be ready to provide food service customers with nutrition information for the foods and food ingredients they provide, since bulk food used in food service use  (such as ice cream for dipping, or cheese for pizza, or cottage cheese for a salad bar) are not required to display a Nutrition Facts panel. Since front-of-pack labeling would meet the requirements of the final rule for vending machine products, vending machine operators may be encouraging their suppliers to add this statement.

Members with questions may contact Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, at, Michelle Matto, IDFA’s nutrition and labeling consultant, at

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