FDA Menu Labeling. Be Ready Or Lose Sales.

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As of May 13, 2015 we still await formal guidance from the FDA regarding the form that chain restaurant menu labeling will take in preparation for the December 1, 2015 implementation date for restaurant. We do have more information secured in the form of a question and answer email exchange between FDA and the National Restaurant Association (NRA). NRA compiled the question set with the assistance of an informal beverage alcohol coalition that the Brewers Association participates in. The coalition of beer, wine and spirits groups works together on regulatory rulemaking matters.

FDA indicates that the guidance will lean toward requiring chain restaurants of 20 or more units or similar retail food establishments to treat beer in the following manner:

  • Restaurant menus and menu boards will include calorie listings for each brand of beer.
  • FDA will require chain restaurants to have nutrient figures for each beer for total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugar and protein.
  • Restaurants may use a combination of methods to develop the information, including the USDA Nutrient Database, manufacturer-supplied data (that’s where you come in), calculations with defensible ideas behind the calculations, laboratory analysis and recipes.
  • Draught beer will be included if listed on a menu. Nutrient values for draught beer will not be required if the beer is not on a menu.
  • Each size pour will require its own listing of all data.
  • The values for “regular beer” in the USDA Nutrient Database won’t be considered accurate for craft beer and other methods of ascertaining this information will be required.

From the final rules we know that seasonal beers available as test items less than 60 consecutive days or 90 total days in a year will be exempt from the FDA requirement, but the restaurant chain may require all beers to provide their information to get menu placement.

While the onus rests with the restaurant chains, it is easy to foresee that companies may drop brands that do not have this information readily available. If you don’t know your nutrient values and do business in chain restaurants now or plan to in the future, now is the time to start gathering your information. Menu development takes months for many chains, and they are moving on this issue already. BA’s technical staff is working to develop their ideas of which nutrient values can be assumed for certain beers, which can be calculated and which will likely require lab testing.

For brewpub groups of 20 or more units, direct compliance will be required for beverage alcohol as well as all menu items, which means menu redesign to fit in calorie information.

Companies that are ready when the chains ask for the information or make it readily available on their websites are likely to do better in getting placements as menus go through shakeup with restaurant groups.

More to Come…

Paul Gatza, Director, Brewers Association

May 13, 2015

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