FDA Busy Crafting Calorie Court Regulations
The FDA has begun the process of establishing regulations to implement recent federal law that mandates calorie information be posted at many chain restaurants and vending machines throughout the United States. The mandate was signed into law on March 23, 2010, as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, (“PPACA”) and requires that all restaurants with 20 or more locations post calorie counts of their products on menus, menu boards, and drive-through menus. Other nutritional information, including amounts of sodium, saturated fats and cholesterol must be made available to consumers in written form upon request. Additionally, all chain restaurants must include on their menus the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services statement on suggested daily calorie intake.
The PPACA requires chain restaurants to label the calorie content for standard menu items and self-service foods, such as buffets and salad bars. However, foods that are daily specials, limited-time offerings, or seasonal items are exempt from the calorie count legislation. Also, vending machines must display calorie disclosures for each item offered for sale unless the Nutritional Facts panel for a food is available for the customer to view prior to purchasing.
The federal calorie count legislation is intended to create a uniform national policy on nutritional information available on chain restaurant menus. PPACA is similar in design and purpose to several state laws and local ordinances requiring calorie count displays at chain restaurants. New York City currently has such a calorie count display law in effect. The National Restaurant Association supported the implementation of a federal guideline as an alternative to numerous labeling schemes that could vary from state to state.
The FDA has until March 2011, one year from the passage of the PPACA, to develop and implement regulations to enforce the calorie count mandate. Once implemented, the FDA will be in charge of enforcement and penalties for violations. On July 7, 2010, the FDA began receiving public comments on how to implement section 4205 of the PPACA. The comment period runs for 60 days and will close on September 5, 2010.
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