Food & Beverage Perspectives
FDA Delays Mandatory Calorie Counts on Menus Until 2016

FDA Delays Mandatory Calorie Counts on Menus Until 2016

FDA today announced it is delaying the final rule requiring nutrition labeling for standard menu items by one year to Dec. 1, 2016, after requests to extend the compliance date because covered establishments did not have adequate time to fully implement the provisions.

FDA today announced it is delaying the final rule requiring nutrition labeling for standard menu items by one year to Dec. 1, 2016, after requests to extend the compliance date because covered establishments did not have adequate time to fully implement the provisions.

According to FDA, “The FDA is committed to working collaboratively with those establishments covered by the menu labeling final rule, including chain restaurants, covered grocery stores, and others to facilitate timely and efficient implementation of the new requirements."

Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in March 2010, set new federal requirements for nutrition labeling for foods sold at certain chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments. Establishments with 20 or more locations may be affected. The menu labeling rule applies to chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments. Consumers would see calories listed in restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. Examples of these establishments include fast food establishments, bakeries, coffee shops and certain grocery and convenience stores. Movie theaters, airplanes, bowling alleys, and other establishments whose primary purpose is not to sell food would not be subject to this proposed regulation.

Menu labeling regulations hit big after President Obama signed health-care reform legislation into law. Since then, groups including the American Heart Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Public Health Association advocated for even stricter menu labeling rules. With a majority of consumers favoring nutritional labeling, the trend continues to gain momentum in the food industry and will likely lead to healthier, more informed choices made by consumers.

New York City, California, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont already have laws that require calorie labeling in chain restaurants. Companies, such as Panera Bread, Au Bon Pain, Starbucks, McDonalds’ and Yum Brands, already have amended their menus to reflect calorie counts.

To support compliance by Dec. 1, 2016, FDA will continue to engage in discussions with the covered businesses and to answer questions about how the rule applies in particular situations. In addition, FDA plans to issue in August 2015 a draft guidance document that provides answers to some of the more frequently asked and crosscutting questions that the agency has received to further assist covered establishments in complying with the rule. The guidance document will be labeled “draft" to reflect FDA’s openness to further comments and dialogue and to expanding the guidance as new questions arise.

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