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What Menu Labeling Means For You

As the old saying goes, you are what you eat. But today, too many American families don’t get all the information they need about the food available when they walk into a restaurant. That’s why we’re working to implement new menu and vending machine nutrition labeling requirements that will help you make healthier choices.

Given that a third of children and two thirds of adults in America are either overweight or obese, there are serious consequences when parents and families don’t have the nutritional information about the food they consume.

Obesity puts people at greater risk for heart disease, strokes, and diabetes, among other serious health problems.  But experience has shown that educating parents and children about nutrition can empower them make healthier choices about the food they consume, and help prevent them from suffering serious health problems.  That’s why the FDA, alongside the First Lady and the Let’s Move! initiative, is committed to helping consumers get the information they need to make healthier choices.

We believe Americans deserve reliable, easy to understand facts about the food they eat and buy for their families, and we’re working to implement new federal menu and vending machine nutrition labeling requirements that will help them make healthy choices. The new law requires chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments (such as coffee shops, delis, movie theaters, bakeries, ice cream shops, and grocery stores) with 20 or more locations to list calorie content information for standard menu items. And restaurants will be required to make more detailed information like the fat, cholesterol and sodium content of each menu item available upon request.

Today, we released a draft guidance document describing implementation of certain provisions of the new law federal law and we’re looking forward to hearing what the public has to say about these new rules. We’ve also released a final guidance document for industry regarding the effect of the new federal nutrition labeling requirements on state and local laws.

In the weeks ahead, the FDA plans to release further guidance explaining in detail how chain vending machine operators can comply with the law.

The FDA is working carefully to implement this new law. We understand that both consumers and the food industry may need additional guidance and time in order to comply with these provisions. So you may not see changes at all of the affected restaurants, food establishments, and vending machines until at least March 23, 2011, the deadline set by the new law for the FDA to issue proposed regulations of the law.

As we continue our work, we want to hear from you.

On July 7, 2010, we opened a public docket at the Federal Register to collect comments and information to help the agency implement the menu and vending machine law. You can find it at docket number FDA-2010-N-0298, located at www.regulations.gov.

Of course, there’s still much work to be done in confronting America’s challenge with obesity, but providing all Americans with better information about the food they eat is a great step in helping everyone make healthier choices.