The US food regulator has agreed to tweak rules on food labelling as many foodservice operators switch to alternative business models as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that under normal circumstances, restaurants and other similar high-street outlets serving food to the general public would be required to provide nutritional information, including calorie content, on menus. The rules apply to establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more outlets carrying the same name.

But with many operators now having to adapt, by offering take-out services only for instance, amid government restrictions on people’s movements, the FDA is making temporary concessions under its new guidance document – Temporary Policy Regarding Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Chain Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments During the Covid-19 Public Health Emergency.

The FDA said in a statement dated 1 April: “The FDA is aware that some of these covered establishments are temporarily changing business practices as a result of the pandemic – for example, some dine-in operations are switching to take-out only, which may require changes in online ordering portals and printed menus. 

“Because calorie information is required to be declared for standard menu items when a consumer makes a selection, establishments may have difficulty providing this information during a rapid transition to a take-out business practice. Additionally, some of these establishments may be experiencing temporary disruptions in the food supply chain, which may lead to different menus or substitutions that could affect the accuracy of the nutrition information.  

“To provide flexibility to these chains covered by menu labelling requirements, FDA will not object if establishments do not meet menu labelling requirements during this public health emergency. This policy change will remain in effect only for the duration of the public health emergency.”