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In Lehmann's terms: counting calories, part 2

Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann discusses why you should monitor the new labeling laws.

As I discussed last month in the first part of this article, there are changes coming our way in terms of nutritional declarations for pizzas and other products that you sell. Presently, Parts 11 and 101 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) are under review concerning the proposed rules of “Food Labeling; Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments.” As the proposal in the Federal Register states, these rules are intended for establishments with 20 or more stores; however, in light of the attention currently being given to the obesity problem in this country, we’re sure to see states and municipalities adopt the new rules and impose them on all food establishments, including independently owned single-store establishments, within their borders. For this reason, everyone needs to be aware of these rules and regulations. You can download a copy of the Federal Register, Vol. 76, No. 66, which shows the proposed changes, at edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/pdf/2011-7940.pdf.

There are about 45 pages in this document, but the “meat” is contained in the last five pages. Additionally, you should be able to get more information, especially on the final rules (which are anticipated to go into effect mid-2012), from your state’s restaurant organization, and also from the National Restaurant Association (NRA) at 202-331-5900 or 800-424-5156. You can find further details and updates at restaurant.org/menulabeling.

Are These Rules Applicable to Me?

A couple of things can happen that might make these regulations applicable to everyone. First, when all of the chains are displaying nutritional information for their menu items, consumer pressure may force independents to provide nutritional information as well. Or perhaps your municipality or state will make a
move to adopt the federal rules, making them applicable to all restaurant establishments, and you will be forced into compliance even though you have only a single store. In reviewing the regulations, be sure to ask yourself: “How would this impact me, and how would I fulfill these requirements?”

Odd Regulations

One oddity that exists in the present draft of regulations is that an entire pizza will appear as a single-serving item, requiring the full calorie count for the entire pizza be shown on the menu. But think about that for a minute: How many of your customers come in and order a single, say, 14” pizza, and eat the entire pizza themselves? In my experience, pizza is shared among two people or more, so why not provide the nutritional information for a single slice? This would be done by simply dividing the total calorie count of the pizza (which you’re going to have to show, anyway) by the number of slices, which might be four, six or eight. 

Pizza companies that make products that are packaged and sold in grocery stores have the option of providing nutritional information on a division of the pizza (if sold uncut) or per slice when sold precut, so why should restaurants have to present the calories on the whole pizza? Think of the similarity between a box of cereal and a pizza: Both have the potential to be consumed in a single serving, but both are typically consumed in multiple servings. However, the box of cereal has its nutritional information indicated on a defined serving basis. 

Keep in mind that, in addition to developing the nutritional data via assay, a purchased software program or by nutritional professionals, the information must be displayed to the consumer in a prescribed manner (covered in the rules and regulations mentioned above). This might mean a redesign of your menu board, as well as a redesign of your table menus. You will also need to train your employees on how to respond to requests for additional nutritional information. Some are already doing all of this, but for others, it will be a learning experience—and just another cost of doing business.

Thanks to the AIB Food Labeling Group for its assistance and guidance in developing this article. For more information, contact labelorder@aibonline.org.

Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann discusses why you should monitor the new labeling laws. Tom Lehmann is the director of bakery assistance for the
American Institute of Baking (AIB). Need more dough advice? Visit the Dough Information Center at PMQ.com/dough.

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