Researchers say clarity is needed on current labeling law and regulations for restaurant menus shared on widely used ordering apps.
Restaurants posting their menus on third-party food delivery platforms, such as DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub, are not consistently following a law requiring calorie disclosures, according to new research published September 13 in the journal Public Health Nutrition. Authors of the study say that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should clarify the rules so that calories are posted more consistently.
A federal law passed in 2010 requires chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus, and those calorie counts must be visible to consumers while making their food selections, whether online or in a restaurant. Researchers at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Tufts University, and New York University examined whether the top 75 restaurant chains are supplying the information by analyzing the first three foods and first three drinks on restaurants’ menus on the restaurants’ own websites or apps and on third-party platforms.
Examining food and drink items posted by restaurants located in four U.S. cities, the researchers found that just 60 percent of menus on restaurant websites or apps posted calories for every menu item reviewed (43 of 72 chains). And the proportion of menus with calorie counts on third-party platforms was even lower.
Four popular chain restaurants had calories posted for every item reviewed by the researchers on all online platforms. But the researchers did not find any calorie information posted at the point of selection on any of the online menus from four other popular chains.
The FDA paused its enforcement of menu labeling requirements in April 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 public health emergency, but has promised to resume enforcement in November 2023. This means restaurants that aren’t following the rules may soon find themselves subject to penalties.