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National Restaurant Association - On the menu: FDA plating up nutrition disclosure

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On the menu: FDA plating up nutrition disclosure

Two panelists brought attendees at an NRA Show 2012 education session this week up to date on the status of a new FDA law that would standardize menu nutrition labeling across the country.

Dan Roehl, senior director of government affairs for the National Restaurant Association, said the new law won't be enforced until at least six months after the publishing of its final rules, which is unlikely to occur before November, possibly later. The NRA has been working with the FDA on the proposal, which would affect restaurant chains with 20 or more units that have the same menu.

"We're hopeful we will see more time than six months, but we're advising operators to be prepared to implement them six months after the final regulations are released," Roehl said.

The law preempts existing municipal or state laws that vary in requirements. Those laws started cropping up in 2006, when New York City became the first government entity to put a nutrition labeling law in place. Such laws present special challenges to companies that operate regionally or nationally.

Caloric content of menu items along with the recommended daily caloric intake will be listed on menus or menu boards. Also, a statement that additional nutritional information is available upon request will be included on the menus.
Exempt items are specials, condiments, limited-time offers, custom orders and test market items.

The FDA is still determining what similar retail food establishments, such as coffee shops and pastry stores, would be covered by the law. "Our theory is it should fit the same definition as restaurants," including convenience stores and grocery stores, Roehl said.

Alcohol is not included in the proposal because the FDA does not regulate alcohol, but that possibility is being evaluated.

Preparation for this law is key, added Cicely Simpson, senior director-government affairs for Dunkin' Brands. She advised operators to read through the entire lengthy proposal so as not to overlook anything. "You need a plan for implementation," she said.

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