Americans are concerned about their health and National Nutrition Month in March shines a spotlight on the growing interest in healthy eating. As the first-year anniversary of the U.S. Federal Drug Administration’s food labeling mandate approaches in May, it’s clear that much has been accomplished, but where are we going?
At first, the forced inclusion of calorie counts and nutrition information on all menu boards and grab-and-go items (for chains with 20 or more restaurants) had many operators scrambling to ensure compliance consistently.
But over the past year, many have found automatic labeling the way to go. Certain solutions enable easy-to-read labeling with nutrition information already calculated—and pre-loaded—to eliminate errors and save time.
Most operators of this size have stopped hand-labeling grab-and-go items. Although the stock rotates quickly, employees’ handwriting was often illegible or included inadvertent errors, leading to potential compliance issues. The margin for error was simply too large.
The million-dollar question: Are Americans eating healthier at restaurants as a result of mandated labeling? Nearly 6 in 10 Americans said they give “a lot of thought” to the foods and beverages they consume, according to the Mercatus Center, a regulatory studies program at George Mason University.
While the transparency is resonating with consumers, some chains still don’t like the mandate as it makes “build your own” items difficult to label. Many pizza and sandwich shops that feature these customized items have found listing calorie ranges to be the best way to go.
On the whole, the fast food industry has enjoyed a year of mostly positive publicity as media outlets from People Magazine to the Food Network have created top-ten lists of the healthiest items to be found at chains such as Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, Subway, and more.
Customers and foodies alike are touting the generous nod to whole grain breads, grilled chicken wraps, salads, fruit and parfaits.
The labeling law is here to stay. Automate the labeling so you can focus on the food.