Relevant guidelines and laws
Healthy food service guidelines are generally designed to make healthier choices more accessible, appealing, safe, and affordable. This section provides an overview of relevant guidelines and laws that support specific standards for foods and beverages, nutrition, facility management, environmental support, community development, food safety, and behavioral design.
These standards are intended to be used in a variety of food service contexts, including cafeterias, cafés, snack bars, grills, concession stands, sundry shops, vending machines, micro markets, and other self-service operations.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans serves as the basis for the food and nutrition standards included in the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities. The Dietary Guidelines, published by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture, defines healthy diets for people 2 years of age and older. It states that “all segments of society—individuals, families, communities, businesses and industries, organizations, government, and others—can and should align with the Dietary Guidelines.”
The Dietary Guidelines provides key recommendations for healthier eating patterns, which include consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods from each food group (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, protein foods, and oils) in recommended amounts and limiting sodium, added sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats.
Aligning the food and nutrition standards included in the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans ensures those standards are consistent with the latest science and recommendations for healthier eating. The standards make specific foods and beverages available to help individuals achieve a healthier eating pattern.
The Smart Snacks in School food and nutrient criteria serve as the basis for the food and nutrition standards for packaged snacks included in the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities. Although the Smart Snacks criteria were developed for all packaged foods sold through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, they can be applied to packaged snacks sold in government facilities. However, the Smart Snacks criterion for total fat was not included in the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities, which instead use the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines’ recommendations for total fat.
The Smart Snack criteria are stricter than the packaged snack standards included in the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities, and therefore all packaged snacks that meet the Smart Snacks criteria also meet the standards for the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities.
A number of laws are relevant when developing and implementing healthy food service guidelines. This section provides an overview of the relevant laws.
The Randolph-Sheppard Act is a federal law that gives priority to blind vendors for certain food service facilities on federal government property. Information about this law is available in Exceed’s Randolph-Sheppard Act and Permits section.
The Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 is a United States federal law that established the General Services Administration (GSA). The law also provides for various federal standards to be published by the GSA. Among these is Federal Standard 1037C, which includes property management and procurement procedures. The procedures for government property management ensure the safety, health, and productivity of each occupant working in a facility. They also ensure GSA compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Act, as implemented by the US Department of Education.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010, is best known for enacting comprehensive health insurance reform. It established the National Prevention Council as well as requirements for menu labeling and vending labeling that should be referenced in healthy food service guidelines.
The National Prevention Council, established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, comprises 20 federal entities. As part of its prevention and wellness efforts, the Council established a National Prevention Strategy to improve all Americans’ health. The National Prevention Strategy “provides evidence-based recommendations that are most likely to reduce the burden of the leading causes of preventable death and major illnesses.” It has 7 priorities: tobacco-free living, drug abuse and excessive alcohol use prevention, healthy eating, active living, injury- and violence-free living, reproductive and sexual health, and mental and emotional well-being. Healthy food service guidelines represent one strategy to address the healthy eating priority.
Under Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, chain vending machine operators (owners of 20 or more vending machines) must make calorie information for food sold from a machine visible to consumers before purchase. If the consumer cannot see the Nutrition Facts Panel before purchase, the operator must post “clear and conspicuous” calorie information in close proximity to the food or near the food’s selection button.
Section 4205 also requires chain restaurants to publicize nutrition information for standard menu items. (Chain restaurants are defined as retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations that do business under the same name and offer for sale substantially the same menu items.) The US Food and Drug Administration’s rules to implement menu labeling requirements are in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Healthy food service guidelines can include the following rules in food and nutrition standards.
- Menu Labeling Final Rule: Food Labeling; Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments. This rule applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, and offering for sale substantially the same menu items and restaurant-type foods. Note that the compliance date for federal menu labeling requirements was delayed to May 2017.
- Vending Machine Final Rule: Food Labeling; Calorie Labeling of Articles of Food in Vending Machines. This rule requires operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie information for food sold from vending machines, subject to certain exemptions. Note that under the revised compliance date, covered vending machine operators must comply with the rule by December 1, 2016.
Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, directs federal agencies to promote energy conservation, efficiency, and management. Food service is part of building operations, so healthy food service guidelines should include environmentally responsible practices that increase energy efficiency and sustainability, such as green purchasing and green pest control alternatives.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have established goals and pillars to encourage practices that benefit the environment. In 2015, the EPA and USDA announced the “first-ever national food waste goal to reduce food waste 50% by 2030.” Healthy food service guidelines should include practices to develop systems for monitoring the relationship between food waste and food procurement; participating in waste reduction, recycling, and composting programs; and repurposing or donating excess food.
The USDA’s Four Pillars of Agriculture and Rural Economic Development promote the development of local and regional food systems and the conservation of natural resources. Healthy food service guidelines should require facilities to offer products that are locally sourced, certified organic, or produced with another certified environmentally beneficial practice.
The US Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code and other relevant state and local food codes should be included as food safety standards in healthy food service guidelines. These codes provide guidance on creating a uniform system of addressing food safety issues in all retail food outlets and food service establishments, such as restaurants, cafés, and cafeterias.