Coming soon to restaurant menus: Calories.


WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration has published its long awaited regulations for the inclusion of calorie counts on menus. In the wake of combing through more than 1,100 comments on the topic the agency has made some revisions to its original proposal.

The basic foundation of the proposed regulations still stand: The final rule applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering substantially the same menu items. Seasonal menu items, limited-time offers, daily specials and condiments for general use typically available on a counter or table are exempt.

The F.D.A. added that food facilities in such entertainment venues as movie theaters and amusement parks also are covered by the final rule.

The final rules are broader in scope than originally proposed.


Covered venues will be required to list calorie information for standard menu items on menus and menu boards and a succinct statement about suggested daily caloric intake. Such a statement may say “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary,” according to the agency.

Other nutrient information, including total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and protein will have to be made available in writing on request. Those businesses that fall under the final rule also will be required to post a statement on menus and menu boards about the availability of the additional written nutrition information.

The F.D.A. said it narrowed the scope of foods covered by the rule to more clearly focus on “restaurant-type” food. Examples of restaurant-type food include meals from sit-down restaurants; foods purchased at drive-through windows; take-out foods, such as pizza; made-to-order sandwiches ordered from a menu board at a grocery store or deli; foods from a salad or hot-food bar; muffins at a bakery or coffee shop; popcorn purchased in a movie theater; a scoop of ice cream, milk shake or sundae from an ice cream store; hot dogs or frozen drinks prepared on site in convenience or warehouse stores; and certain alcoholic beverages that are standard menu item.

Foods not covered include those purchased in grocery stores or other similar retail food operations that typically are intended for more than one person to eat and require additional preparation before consuming, such as pounds of deli meats, cheeses or large-size deli salads.

The agency added calories must be declared for “combination meals.” For example, when the menu or menu board lists three or more choices for menu items in a combination meal (e.g., a sandwich with chips, a side salad, or fruit), the calories must be declared as a range, such as 450-700 calories. When the menu or menu board lists two choices for menu items in a combination meal (e.g., a sandwich with chips or a side salad), the calories must be declared as a slash, such as 350/450 calories.

The F.D.A. said it will be checking the accuracy of calorie counts on menus. The agency said that upon request covered establishments must provide information to the F.D.A. substantiating nutrient values, including the method and data used to derive such values. In addition to other information needed depending on the basis used to determine nutrient values, a signed/dated statement generally is needed to certify the information contained in the nutrient analysis is accurate and complete, and that the covered establishment has taken reasonable steps to ensure the method of preparation and the amount of the standard menu item offered for sale adhere to the factors on which its nutrient values were determined.

All venues included in the rule will have until Dec. 1, 2015 to comply.