Menu Calorie Labeling - Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act

  • Wednesday, November 20, 2013
  • In 2010, the US Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  In the ACA was Section 4205 which defined a menu calorie labeling provision.  This applies to you if:

    • You are a retail food establishment with 20 or more locations

    How this works is that after Congress passes the law, it is the FDA’s responsibility to provide the final rules of how to implement the law.  The first draft of the rules appeared on April 6th, 2011 in the federal register.

    Now you might be wondering, it is already 2013, so what happened to the final rules?  We reached out to the FDA on the status of this legislation and these are the answers we got back  (the answers are paraphrased).

    Question 1: When will the FDA issue final rules on Section 4205?

    We are still working on the final rule so unfortunately, I cannot give you an estimate of when it will be published.  I can tell you it won’t be out by the end of the year but hopefully should be out within the next year.  It will be announced in the Federal Register as well as on the FDA website.


    Question 2: How will restaurants be able to calculate the calorie values for their food entrees?

    As we discussed in the proposed rule, restaurants and other food establishments have a number of options for determining calorie counts.  They may use nutrient databases, cookbooks, lab analyses among other methods.  But you need to wait until the final rule is out.  There may be additions or edits to what we proposed in April 2011.  

    In parsing what the FDA has said, it looks like restaurants have 3 options:

    • existing cookbooks

    • lab analyses

    • nutrient databases

    Existing Cookbooks
    For existing cookbooks, I think the FDA is saying if you see a calorie content in an existing cookbook, you can use that as a reference value.  Personally I think this is kind of weird as I haven't really seen that many cookbooks with calorie values.

    Lab Analyses
    Lab Analyses is the situation where you send your food into a lab.  This is rather cost prohibitive since it costs about $500 per food to get the calorie value.


    Nutrient Database
    This is the method where restaurants can use programs or websites that are backed by a nutrient database.  This is the most cost effective method of getting your calorie data.



    At Menutail, we use the nutrient database provided by the USDA.  When looking at the content of the databases, restaurants should be able to handle mostly all of their recipes, with one major exception -- juices.

    Juices are the juice of a vegetable or a fruit that is run through ajuicer.  An example is kale juice, carrot juice, etc.

    So if your restaurant had a juice made up of apple, kale, and carrot,  the only way of getting that calorie data to send a sample to a lab.  That in itself would be very cost prohibitive.

    We will be watching what the FDA would be saying in the final regulations and we will post the update here.

    Meanwhile if the FDA does enforce calorie values on juices, your restaurant may need to make some tweaks in your menu to avoid getting hit with the huge cost of sending juices to a lab.

    For more information:

Menutail Affiliate Program

  • Wednesday, November 13, 2013
  • We are launching our first afilliate program of 2013! If you successfully refer a friend to subscribe to a new Menutail plan, then you will get a free month credit.  The credits are stackable, so if you refer two friends, you will get two free months.  Here are the full details:

    • When a friend signs-up, make sure they put your name or e-mail in the 'referral' field during sign-up
    • Once they successfully subscribe to a plan, a one month free discount will be applied to your plan.


    The only condition we have is you must be a current Menutail subscriber.

    *We do reserve the right to change the program at any time.

Voluntary Wine Nutrition Labeling

  • Monday, November 11, 2013
  • In May 28,2013 the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Treade Bureau (TTB) issued a ruling that allows the voluntary nutrition facts labeling of wine:

    If you are a wine producer, there probably isn't a strong motivation to do voluntary labeling.  However if more voluntary wine labels spread throughout the market place, this might be something you would be interested in.  We reached out to the FDA for a couple clarifications of the ruling and we share the answers below.

    Question 1: For the nutrient information, do wineries need to send their wine to a lab to be examined, or can a nutrient database (e.g. USDA SR-26) be sufficient?  

    It’s best to send your wine to a lab for nutritional analysis.  The USDA database gives nutritional values for an average product.  Not all cabernets have the same alcohol content, and the caloric content will vary accordingly.  The caloric content of the wine will need to be within +5 and -10 calories of the label claim to be considered compliant.  

    Question 2: Does the TTB have a preference of a lab to send the wine to?

    TTB doesn’t recommend any particular lab.  A lab accredited to the ISO17025 international quality standard is preferred.


    If you have any compliance questions you can reach out to or check the latest information at


Do I have to send my food product to a food lab?

  • Tuesday, November 5, 2013
  • A common question we get is if a food vendor has to submit their food product to a laboratory for nutrition for analysis.

    The FDA has said the following in their guidance document:

    N37. Is there a problem with using ingredient composition data bases to calculate the values for nutrition labeling?

    Answer: If manufacturers choose to use ingredient data bases, they should be assured of the accuracy of the databases and validate the resulting calculations by comparing them with values for the same foods obtained from laboratory analyses. Manufacturers are responsible for the accuracy of the nutrition labeling values on their products. Although FDA specifies the laboratory methods that will be used to evaluate the accuracy of the labeled products, FDA does not specify acceptable sources for the labeled values.

    Basically the FDA says that if you do choose to use an ingredient database, be sure of the accuracy of the database.  Most nutrition labeling vendors base their information on the USDA SR Nutrition Database.  For each ingredient in the database, the USDA has done their own comprehensive lab testing for most common ingredients.

    In short, if your food product consists of mainly common food ingredients then you are pretty good to use Menutail or another nutrition labeling database that is backed by USDA SR-26.  If your food product is fairly complex, then you might need to send it in to a lab.  We recommend the following lab:

    Silliker Labs:

    And the cost is about $650-900 a label

    Lastly, the USDA database does not have a good analysis of juices, so you may need to send your ingredient into the lab in that scenario.