Editor’s note, March 10, 2016: The FDA yesterday issued a statement saying that it will once again move back the compliance date for menu calorie labeling until one year after it issues final guidance on the matter. In September 2015, the FDA issued a draft of said guidance and it is currently accepting comments; it is not yet know when final FDA guidance will be published.
If more nutritionally conscious beer drinking is your New Year’s resolution, push it back to 2017. The FDA has extended its deadline for compliance with beer calorie labeling on menus until Dec. 1, 2016, giving the beer industry and restaurants additional time to sort out how they will provide the nutritional information to consumers.
Under the FDA rules, first published in July of 2015, chain restaurants (as well as bowling alleys, movie theaters, sports arenas, etc.) with 20 or more locations will need to display calorie counts for beers that appear on the menu for 60 or more days a year. Additional nutrition details, such as total carbohydrates, sugars, protein, etc., must be available upon consumer request.
If a beer is listed by name on a menu, a caloric value must be listed that corresponds with its serving size. If only a generic term like “light beer” appears on a menu, and there are three or more choices within that category, a range of calories can be displayed.
One of the big questions from breweries and restaurants has been who will provide the nutritional information to be listed on menus. The FDA released a draft version of guidance on this in September 2015, and the Beer Institute (a trade group that represents macro as well as craft brewers, plus importers and beer ingredient suppliers) says it has been working with the FDA on the menu labeling guidelines. The rules indicate that restaurants may use a variety of sources to determine calorie counts, including lab analysis, recipes and a USDA database. Additionally, beers whose labeling has been approved by the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the government body responsible for approving beer labels) can use calorie figures provided there for menu labeling.
The USDA database mentioned above is limited in the information is provides for beer, according to the Beer Institute, and the BI says it is working with the USDA to expand it. While there are clearly still some details to be worked out, the BI says that the additional draft guidance has aligned with much of the beer industry’s position on menu labeling.
“This is a positive outcome for our industry and the consumer,” said Jim McGreevy, Beer Institute president and CEO, in a statement. “While the FDA will allow flexibility in terms of sources used for nutrition labeling, including calorie disclosure for alcohol, the restaurant must have a reasonable basis for the disclosures and the disclosures themselves must be accurate.”