About the FDA: What Restaurants Need to Know


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a government agency that is responsible for protecting our nation’s food supply. This federal department regulates food labeling, food safety (except for meat and poultry) and bottled water. The United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates meat and poultry. Together, the FDA and USDA issue warnings and recalls when a food product is found to be unsafe for consumers. The FDA and USDA also update all regulations that directly affect business and customer’s health. It’s important for food service business owners to know about the FDA and what they do as it’s important to keep customers healthy and happy.

Ready to learn more about the FDA? Let’s dive in.

Find Resources About the FDA

Stay up-to-date on the latest food safety issues with a compiled list from the FDA and the USDA. These two agencies have teamed up to share information on safe food handling and recalled food products. Stay current and educate your guests:

  • Let customers know that you are looking out for them. Include a link to the website, FoodSafety.gov on your restaurant’s home page.
  • Keep your kitchen staff educated. Set-up automatic alerts that can be sent directly to your email.
  • Prepare for the unexpected. Print out the informative food safety charts created by the FDA and USDA to guide your kitchen staff on how to properly store refrigerated or frozen food during power outages.

Display Nutrition Information

When the health care reform legislation was signed into law on March 23, 2010, a section of the document required restaurants and food retail establishments with 20 or more locations to display the calorie content information for standard menu items on restaurant menus and menu boards.  Establishments with fewer than 20 locations are exempt from this requirement, but they can sign up to do so voluntarily. Three benefits of voluntarily signing up for regulation are:

  • Protection from frivolous lawsuits. Registration with the FDA will provide the same protective legal coverage as the federal legislation does for restaurants with more than 20 locations.
  • Exemption from additional state or local regulation. The new legislation states that food service establishments with 19 or fewer locations may still receive menu and menu board labeling regulation under state and local nutrition labeling laws that are not identical to the federal requirements. Restaurants and similar food retail food establishments who voluntarily register will not need to make additional adjustments unless the state and local regulations are different from the federal regulations.
  • Competition with the big wigs. When customers grow accustomed to knowing the nutritional information from larger competitors, they may begin to demand the same information from smaller businesses. Meet customer expectations ahead of the curve and provide them with nutritional information for the whole menu, or for your most popular selling items.

Avoid Health Risks

Learn the major food allergens and how to clearly display allergen ingredient information for your customers. Educate your staff about how to safely prepare food for guests who may become ill from cross-contamination or exposure to food allergens.

  • Learn about the major food allergens. Eight foods have been identified by law as the major contributors for 90% of allergic reactions, including: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.
  • Know the symptoms of an allergic reaction. When a person experiences an allergic reaction to food, symptoms typically show anywhere from a few minutes to two hours after consumption. Some symptoms can include: hives, facial swelling, throat swelling, loss of consciousness or abdominal cramps.
  • Stay up-to-date on food recalls. Know when food products are recalled in real time. Put up signage for any recalls in the news, for example: “Our eggs come from The Jones Dairy, which has not been affected by this salmonella outbreak”.

With the information available from the FDA, you can enhance your menu and customer satisfaction by staying up-to-date with current recalls and food safety techniques. It may also be a good idea to provide your customers with nutrition information to remain competitive with the bigger chain operations. And to keep everyone safe, it is helpful to keep ingredient information handy for customers who are concerned about possible allergens. Take advantage of the FDA resources available and keep your customers happy, healthy and coming back for more.

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About Author

Maggie Henderson

Maggie once gained five pounds in pursuit of the perfect Indian dal recipe. When she isn't cooking, she spends her days as a marketer and her nights and weekends blogging, taking pictures and chasing after her son and dog.

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