Monday, December 29, 2008

Menu Labeling – Who Knew?

Another day, another call and I’m still finding that restaurants that fall under the menu labeling laws consider themselves exempt; either because they’re franchised owned (doesn’t matter you still need to comply), or simply didn’t know.

I understand that I work at a company that handles regulation compliance for restaurants, so naturally I stay current on menu labeling laws, their individual deadlines, and nutrition requirements. But with menu labeling listed as number three on the NRA’s hot topic list for 2009, and the amount of press each law has received, I find it odd that restaurants who are clearly under the law are baffled when I call.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this; nutrition labeling is a large feat for a lot of restaurants. They have to re-print their menus, re-design and put up new menu boards, and in some cases they have to label the deli counter cookies with calorie cards (just like you see in Starbucks). And, as simple as companies like MenuCalc make the gathering of nutrition information, it is still an extra task for busy foodservice managers.

Even so, these laws are upon us now, I was shocked to find that many chain restaurants in New York City still have not posted calorie counts on their menu boards (their law went into effect in May 2008), and have yet to even have their menus nutritionally analyzed….

As I discovered through my market research calls, chain restaurants with locations in King County Washington who’s menu labeling law will take effect on January 1, ummm’d and arrr’d when I called to find out how their nutrition information was coming along. With one company I was transferred 3 times to someone who “knew about this stuff.” With deadlines looming I feel it necessary to bring to the forefront dates and deadlines for chain restaurants that will need to post nutrition information on their menus and menu boards.

Area AffectedEnforcement DateMore Information
New York City, NYMay 5th, 2008http://www.menucalc.com/images/NY_%20calorie_compliance_guide.pdf
King County, WAJanuary 1st, 2009http://www.menucalc.com/ images/White%20Paper%20KC%20(1208).pdf
California (statewide)July 1st, 2009http://www.menucalc.com/images/CA.pdf
Multnomah County, ORJuly 15th, 2009http://www.menucalc.com/images/Multnomah.pdf
Philadelphia, PAJanuary 1st, 2010http://www.menucalc.com/images/Philadelphia.pdf
Worchester County, NYTBA 

I hope this helps the industry and remember so can we!

--Alyson Z. Mar, RD

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