WASHINGTON — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on July 21 issued a Federal Register notice that explains how restaurants and similar retail food establishments not covered by the new federal menu labeling requirements, such as establishments with fewer than 20 locations, and vending machine operators with fewer than 20 vending machines, may voluntarily register to become subject to the new federal requirements.

“Smaller chain and individual retail food establishments are not subject to the new federal law,” the F.D.A. said. “However, they may still be subject to all state and local nutrition labeling laws and associated regulations. If these restaurants and similar retail food establishments voluntarily register with the F.D.A., they will no longer be subject to state or local nutrition labeling requirements unless those requirements are identical to federal requirements.”

Earlier this month, the F.D.A. opened a public docket to collect comments and information to help the agency implement the new federal law. To comment, visit www.regulations.gov. The docket is open for comments for 60 days from its publication date of July 7, 2010.