By Cathryn Sacra
Each month EAS selects one question sent in by readers to be answered in EASeNews. This month’s answer is provided by Cathryn Sacra, Director of Labeling and Cosmetic Services. Cathryn oversees EAS’ labeling team, assisting clients with food and dietary supplement product labeling as well as menu labeling for restaurants. To learn more about EAS labeling services for restaurants and how we may assist in development and verification of accuracy, contact Cathryn today.
Question: How should I prepare in the event of an FDA audit for accuracy of my restaurant’s menu labeling?
Sacra: On May 7, 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration implemented a landmark menu labeling law that requires chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations to provide nutrition information for their standard menu items. There is no doubt that requiring restaurants to disclose their nutrition information empowers customers to make healthier dietary choices. This empowerment is especially relevant for the increasingly health-conscious public and those with medical issues. Thus, it is critically important that the information provided by foodservice establishments is solidly substantiated either through nutrient databases, cookbooks, or laboratory analysis and that the information is conveyed accurately to the consumer. Industry misunderstanding and confusion of the requirements is evidenced by the Agency’s many updates including Key Facts on declaring calories, answers to common questions, and a Constituent Update Fact Sheet and Menu Labeling Requirements released August 13, 2019 which clarified some concerns.
Some foodservice establishments lack understanding of the critical importance of providing accurate information and in many cases view this important task as merely a technicality required by law, a hassle, as well as a waste of restaurant resources. Further, and problematically, the absence of a technical person on the restaurant establishment staff who is capable of guiding proper sampling to obtain accurate nutrition analysis, means results can be inconsistent and inaccurate.
As part of the FDA’s continued efforts to provide support to stakeholders through education and outreach, it is expected that the Agency will establish a random systematic labeling auditing process to verify the accuracy of the information provided to customers by establishments covered by the FDA Menu Labeling Law. Stakeholders must ensure completeness and accuracy to stay in compliance. Menu labeling requires continued monitoring, even after initial laboratory testing of data is verified and published. It is important to identify a laboratory that is competent in this type of assessment and one that can provide validated and verified results. Additionally, supplier labels need to be verified so their information is in line with that your organization is projecting to customers. Any changes to the restaurant menu or ingredient sourcing must be assessed to ensure continued accuracy. There are many components to the development and execution of an evergreen plan to ensure menu labeling success. Choose EAS and our experts in menu labeling to ensure your restaurant’s compliance with FDA’s Final Rule.