Department of Agriculture Adopts Temporary FDA Food Labeling Policy, New Products Debut in Grocers, Restaurant Delivery

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture reviewed the Food and Drug Administration’s temporary policy regarding nutrition labeling during the COVID-19 public health crisis, and provided clarity behind new items for sale in Pennsylvania’s grocery stores and restaurants.

This temporary policy by the FDA allows restaurants to sell ingredients and bulk prepared foods direct to consumers, and allows food manufacturers to distribute foods intended for restaurant-use to grocery stores for purchase by consumers. This means grocery shoppers may see industrial sized bags of soup or other prepared items, with non-traditional nutrition information labels. Eggs by the flat, instead of by the dozen, have also been approved by a separate guidance document from the FDA. This temporary flexibility also allows restaurants to sell meal kits or raw ingredients in addition to their regular menu of takeout items.

Similar to recognizing a need for decreased food labeling requirements, the FDA issued guidance offering restaurants and retail food establishments flexibility for menu labeling. Under normal circumstances, restaurants and retail food establishments that are a part of a chain of 20 or more locations must provide nutrition information (calorie declarations) for standard menu items. Recognizing that business practices have been required to change as a result of COVID-19 – including modified menus, printed takeout menus, or online portals – the FDA will not object to restaurants that do not meet requirements.