Restaurants and the FDA: What You Need to Know


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a government agency that is responsible for protecting our nation’s food supply and 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 update all regulations that directly affect business and customer’s health. When the customers are healthy, they are happy, which is good news for the food service operator.

The FDA proves as a useful resource for more than learning the laws. Let’s take a look at how the FDA assists food service establishments conduct better business.

Find Resources

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 create a unified website 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,, or the website’s widget, Food Safety Alerts & Tips, on your restaurant’s home page.
  • Keep your kitchen staff educated. Set-up automatic alerts to your email address or smart phone, or receive an RSS (Real Simple Syndication) to your desktop.
  • 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

President Barack Obama signed the health care reform legislation into law on March 23, 2010. A section of this document states a new requirement for 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 do not need to register with the FDA for this new requirement, but can 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 establishments. 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 after consuming the food or within two hours.  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.”

Manage the information available from the FDA to enhance your food service capabilities and remain up-to-date with current recalls and food safety techniques to keep your business above costly errors. Provide your customers with nutrition information on a limited or full menu to boost trust with your brand as well as to keep health conscious customers coming back. Remember to maintain a constant line of communication with your customers about what ingredients could include common allergens. Use the FDA resources to help keep your customers happy, healthy and coming back again and again.


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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