Consumer groups to FDA: Compel ordering platforms to show nutritional information

Consumer groups have approached the FDA to make thrid party online delivery platforms display nutritional information.

In a letter to FDA director Dr. Susan Mayne, representatives from consumer groups have asked the agency to create rules that would mandate third-party ordering platforms to display nutritional information. The letter names platforms like Doordash, Uber Eats, and Seamless.

The FDA's menu labeling requirements

Back in 2010, the FDA passed menu labeling requirements into law. As per these requirements, establishments must share the number of calories contained in their food items. This information must be included in their menus as well as on menu boards. However, the requirements do not apply to restaurants that have less than 20 locations.

In April 2020, the FDA announced flexibilities to its menu labeling requirements taking into account the Covid 19 pandemic. According to a post on the FDA's official website, the agency decided that it will not enforce its menu labeling requirements for the duration of the public health emergency. The flexibility was announced as the FDA recognizes that there have been disruptions to food supply chains around the country as well as many restaurants are shifting to take away only models in order to comply with health and safety guidelines. This can make it difficult for restaurants to provide calorie content information in a timely manner, particularly as menu items may be adapted and changed sporadically.

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Why are consumer groups concerned?

Having nutrition information at hand influences consumer behavior. During the pandemic, the use of online ordering platforms has increased significantly. These platforms often use algorithms to analyze consumer's behavior and suggest upsell items. This can lead to consumers taking in more calories than is healthy. The lack of nutritional information increases consumer's vulnerability to persuasion. In response to this concern, consumer advocacy groups like the American Heart Association and the Center for Science in Public Interest have approached the FDA and via a joint letter asked the agency to address the loophole.

What do the FDA and ordering platforms have to say?

In a statement, the FDA recognized the loophole. In the statement, the FDA says that the dining landscape has changed significantly over the past year. The menu labeling requirements did not include ordering platforms and hence they are not required to comply, however they may voluntarily choose to do so. McDonalds for example has chosen to display nutritional information for all its menu items.

Spokespeople for Uber Eats, Grubhub and Doordash said that their platforms allow restaurants to add nutrition information in the description field of menu items. Most restaurants choose not to.

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