/ Menu labeling, Nutrition


While 2018 is starting to wind down and plans are starting to be made for the new year, it’s hard to forget all the nutrition and allergy milestones the foodservice industry reached this past year. From new state laws to federal legislation overhauls, if you blinked over the past 12 months, you could have missed a major change. Here are some of the biggest headlines from 2018:
 
FDA Releases New Food Code
The 2017 Food Code was released to the industry on February 12, 2018. The Food Code acts as a model for all levels of government to use during inspections, and as general knowledge for the industry. The goal of the Food Code is to create a healthier food supply, whether it’s ensuring food is labeled properly, or that foodservice workers have the tools to safely prepare, cook and store food. The 2017 release saw a few significant changes, including better alignment with meat time/temperature regulations from the USDA, and revised requirements for the Person in Charge to be a Certified Food Protection Manager.
 
FDA Launches Nutrition Innovation Strategy
The FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, has been very vocal about his plans to better the way we label food. This was made evident with the release of the FDA Nutrition Innovation Strategy on March 29, 2018. While the strategy is in the early stages of development, it aims to reduce preventable death and disease related to poor nutrition by improving and modernizing food claims, improving packaged food labels, and setting goals to reduce sodium across the food supply. The strategy has been opened for public comment.
 
Menu Labeling Takes Effect
After 8 years, 1 month and two weeks of waiting (but who’s counting?), the federal menu labeling regulations finally took effect on May 7, 2018. Any foodservice establishment with 20 or more locations serving substantially the same items now must have their menus and menu boards properly labeled. This means that calories are next to the names or prices in the correct font size and color, and that guests have access to additional nutrition information upon request. The FDA has stated several times that the first year of compliance would be rather lax on penalties and fines, and that the official plan for enforcement in year two would be made public soon. While that plan has yet to be released, the industry should be preparing for harsher enforcement in 2019.
 
The End of Partially Hydrogenated Oils
June 18thmarked the date that the FDA removed the “generally recognized as safe” distinction from partially hydrogenated oils. Used in a variety of applications that require solidified fats (such as baked goods and other confectionaries), partially hydrogenated oils, or PHOs, have long been viewed as problematic due to their contribution towards transfats in foods. The FDA took action and started prohibiting their use in the food supply. Food produced on or after June 18, 2018 can no longer use PHOs, while food already existing in circulation has until January 1, 2020 to comply.
 
 
Edison, NJ Stuns Country with Food Allergy Labeling Law
On August 22nd, the township of Edison, NJ approved an ordinance that requires all foodservice establishments to identify the top 8 allergens in their menu items. This ordinance was the first of its kind in the United States but could be just the beginning of more local governments requiring transparent allergen information for consumers. Covered establishments have until April of 2019 to comply.
 
FDA Asks for Input on Sesame Allergy Labeling
While the year may be coming to an end, that doesn’t mean we’re done seeing new legislation. On October 29th, the FDA announced that they are considering the possibility of adding sesame to the list of top allergens that must be declared on packaged foods. They are currently researching the prevalence and severity of sesame allergies, as well as what types of foods sold in the U.S. contain sesame. If the results show that sesame allergies are a public health concern, further plans for labeling will be explored.