FDA stalls calorie count requirement on food menus until 2016

 Food industry operators—from fine dining establishments and pizza joints to major grocery chains and street corner bodegas—caught a break in early July, 2015, when the FDA agreed to delay for one year the implementation of mandatory labeling standards on food menus of chain restaurants.

On July 9, the FDA decided to push its original December 2015 deadline to December 2016 for the country’s various foodservice operators with 20 or more locations to begin listing calorie counts on their menus.

The implementation of the law did not settle well with all industry participants, specifically grocery stores and pizzerias. Supermarkets claimed that developing calorie counts for their menu-less delis and self-serve food bars would be difficult to implement given the allotted time.

The pizza industry, meanwhile, balked at the labeling as a frivolous and ill- devised mandate since a majority of their customers can order a near infinite amount of combinations without a menu of any kind.

“The pizza segment’s variables in shape, size, range and toppings made it more difficult for the more than 700,000 locations to conform to a one-size-fits-all approach. This led to a ton of questions,” the National Restaurant Association said in a statement.

The postponement came after businesses voiced concerns that “covered establishments do not have adequate time to fully implement the requirements of the rule by the compliance date,” the FDA said.

“Since the FDA issued the menu lab final rule on December 1, 2014, the agency has had extensive dialogue chain restaurants, covered grocery store and other covered businesses, and answered numerous questions on how the rule can be implemented in specific situations,” Michael R. Taylor, the Administration’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine. “The FDA agrees additional time is necessary for the agency to provide further clarifying guidance to help facilitate efficient compliance across all covered businesses and for covered establishments to come into compliance with the final rule.”

Operators will now have an extra year to prepare their menus to comply with the labeling laws, a decision that was fully endorsed by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) back in July.

“We’re encouraged that FDA’s commitment will give us more time to at least garner some clarity and answers without feeling rushed to make difficult business decisions in an attempt to comply by December 1, 2015 with regulations that are unclear,” said FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin. “FMI will continue to work with both FDA and Congress to address business challenges with implementing restaurant menu labeling in grocery stores.”UB


Article contributed by Michael Ramsingh



VOL. 10, NO. 4 / FALL 2015 / URNER BARRY’S REPORTER • 61