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FDA Releases Restaurant Menu-Labeling Guidance; Vending Draft May Not Be Ready Until March

Posted On: 9/3/2010

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Food and Drug Administration, FDA, National Automatic Merchandising Association, Ned Monroe, federal nutrition labeling requirements, vending, vending machine, vending machine business, menu labeling, calorie disclosure rules, FDA draft guidance on nutrition labeling, food service

WASHINGTON, DC -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released draft guidance last week that outlines steps to help chain restaurants comply with new federal nutrition labeling requirements. It did not, however, provide guidance for vending machines. Operations with 20 or more machines are subject to the legislation.

FDA informed the National Automatic Merchandising Association last week that it wants to provide guidance to the vending industry "sooner rather than later," but said that it may not be until March 2011.

"Since the legislation requires the FDA to 'promulgate' rules by March 2011, it may be that the rules will be released at the same time that guidance is provided," NAMA senior vice-president Ned Monroe told VT. "Since these regulations will economically impact more than 90% of the vending industry, our small businesses need FDA guidance sooner rather than later."

In July, the FDA asked for written comments to guide the agency in drafting the vending regulations; the comment period ends on Sept. 7. Monroe explained that once the agency issues draft rules, it will allow for 30 or 60 days of comments before issuing final rules. NAMA is asking the agency to allow two years to comply after the final calorie-disclosure rules are issued.

The first of the two documents released by the FDA this week is draft guidance , which describes implementation of certain provisions of the federal law for chain restaurants. It includes posting calorie information on menus and menu boards, providing additional nutrition information in writing, and posting clearly that information is available upon request.

The FDA also specified in the draft guidance that the scope of the law extends beyond restaurants to encompass airlines, trains, grocery-store food courts, movie theaters and convenience stores that qualify as chains. Within grocery stores, the agency said, it is considering including salad bars, store bakeries, pizza bars and delicatessens.

The second document is final guidance, with regards the effect of the new federal nutrition labeling requirements on state and local laws. It specifies that the federal menu-labeling law supersedes state and local calorie disclosure regulations on vending machines.