Providing nutritional information

I have a customer that wants me to provide the nutritional information on several pizzas and a few menu items. Most of the items are from-scratch, so there’s a lot of work involved - no problem on that though.

The thing I’m worried about is, what if I’m wrong? I’m not a food scientist and I’m certainly not an expert on creating food labels with nutritional content. I’m feeling very leery about saying, with authority, that “product X has 8g of fat” or “produce Y has 210mg of sodium”. It seems like there’s some legal risk here and I’m just not feeling confident. If it was as simple as collecting the boxes from around the store are relaying the info, that would be fine. But how the heck can I be sure of my process with homemade sauce or dough?

Any suggestions?

Tom Lehman can help you with this I believe. I seem to recall that he has someone at AIB that can create the info from your labels and recipes. You do use the same amount of each ingredient for each batch of dough and sauce you mix, correct? You do have a standard amount of dough and sauce that is used for each size pizza, correct. It’ll be a lot more straight forward than you think.

Yikes…That sounds like a “slippery slope”… I found this link that might give you some food for thought and way more questions than you started with…

Thanks Paul. Yes, the amount of dough and sauce for every pizza is standard. But what about getting down to figuring the nutritional content in 1 oz of my sauce? The sauce is made from scratch. I’m down to starting with the nutritional content of tomatoes. What about sugar added? Does that add gram for gram to the sugar content in the sauce? How about sodium from the salt? There’s a lot of room to make a mistake.

So I agree that it should be straightforward, but my fear is in making an error and misreporting something. Once I hand it to the customer I consider it released to the public, and it has to be 100% correct.

Royster’s post is exactly why I’m nervous about doing this. From that article:

Legal liability from variables in restaurant cooking is “not a theoretical fear.” As pointed out by the PI, “Applebee’s is facing a $5 million lawsuit over just that issue, after an independent lab found more calories and fat in a menu item than the chain’s nutritional information claimed.

Of course, I don’t think it would be as big of a deal as that Applebee’s case. But I’m not comfortable telling someone “This is exactly what you’re putting in your body” when I’m not qualified to do so.

The Applebys example this article references doesn’t completely align with what pizza shops will be worried about. One of the main reasons Applebys was targeted is their use of the Weight Watchers menu items. Imagine targeting Weight Watcher customers and the serving an item with triple the fat as advertised on the menu. Applebys wasn’t forced to include nutritional labeling, they included it for a few items to get a competitive edge over their competition. They brought this lawsuit upon themselves.

When you say you make from scratch, do you start with fresh tomatoes or a canned product like a Stanislaus product?

I think this is exactly why you should be very careful about providing this information at the request of one (or even a few) guests… All that needs to happen in a pizza shop is to have a “heavy-hander” on the topping/cheese line, and it could be detrimental. Why bring the liability on yourself if it is not required?

Is this customer trying to justify to themselves that pizza is health food? :lol:

We start with fresh tomatoes and we puree them ourselves, and then use a small amount of prepared paste.

That defiantly makes it a bit more difficult. So you do have to change the amount of sugar you add depending on the time of year. I really don’t know how they will approach that,

The FDA knows how variable restaurant foods can be and so their recommendations take that into account. For example,

Does a restaurant have to use the Nutrition Facts format to provide nutrition information?

Answer: No. FDA is not requiring full nutrition labeling for restaurant foods, nor is it requiring that nutrition information be presented in the Nutrition Facts format. Because restaurant foods tend to be prepared or sold differently from foods from other sources, FDA has amended 21 CFR 101.10 to provide a number of flexibilities for restaurants in how they determine the nutrient content of a food (e.g., using data base analysis or other reliable sources of nutrient information) and in how this information may be presented to consumers (e.g., in various formats and by reasonable means, such as in a flier or notebook) January 6, 1993, 58 FR 2302 at 2410 (available in PDF, 22.87 MB).

You can read the full document here: Guidance for Industry: A Labeling Guide for Restaurants and Other Retail Establishments Selling Away-From-Home Foods. Hey, try to stay awake!

It looks like the liability arises when you make a specific claim about the foods like paul7979’s Applebees example.

Whenever I provide my nutrition info I always include the printed disclaimer: “Figures compiled from available reference materials. May not be suitable for Nutritional Facts Declaration.” If anyone asks what that means I explain, “We make food by hand so it’s not as exacting as packaged stuff sold in a supermarket. These numbers can vary… but it’s good for comparing different menu items.”

Paul is right, we can certainly assist you with your nutritionals. Its pretty straight forward. The cost is a little less than one-hundred dollars per label. To get more information, please contact either Don Pickering or Elaine Meloan at 800-633-5137 (Don is at extension 171 and Elain is at extension 217).
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

I would just walk from this one. Too many variable and too much liability. Sure might just be someone curious and on a diet but you just never know.

I would just tell the customer you don’t have it. A hundred bucks doesn’t seem like much but if you are like us over the years we have tweeked this or that in our recipes, not to mention our employees accidentally tweek some of the recipes so that is where the information is no longer reliable.

People are sue happy now adays. Be careful.

When we have a customer ask if we serve nuts, is there pork in that etc. the answer is yes.

I bring in food some foods and don’t know how those facilities specifically prepare them so I error on the cautious side.