Yet Again, the FDA is Delaying the Menu-Labeling Rule

How many calories are in that hamburger? The answer might not be easy to find.
How many calories are in that hamburger? The answer might not be easy to find.
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Restaurants unprepared for the Food and Drug Administration’s menu-labeling rule just got a reprieve. Again. For the third time, the controversial rule, which requires restaurants and other away-from-home food retailers to include calorie counts on menus and signage, was delayed.

President Donald Trump’s FDA announced Monday that the law’s compliance date is being extended from May 5 to May 7, 2018. “We are taking this action to enable us to consider how we might further reduce the regulatory burden or increase flexibility while continuing to achieve our regulatory objectives, in keeping with the Administration’s policies,” the FDA said in a statement.

The ObamaCare rule was initially issued in December 2014 and moved back twice under former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told The Hill that “The FDA made the right decision to delay a rule that would have essentially dictated how every food service establishment in America with more than 20 locations—restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, and more—writes and displays their menus.”

Whether this has anything to do with the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act remains to be seen. As does the future of the rule and if it will even exist a year from now. Trump is a well-documented proponent of the fast-food industry and even nominated former CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder to be labor secretary. Puzder later withdrew from consideration.

When early repeals of ACA failed, however, many restaurants proceeded with operational changes instead of waiting to see if the rule would be abolished or pushed back.

The National Restaurant Association responded Tuesday by addressing this concern and the impact it had on operators across the country.

“The National Restaurant Association is concerned with the impact of the delay in the implementation of the federal menu labeling law just days before the scheduled effective date. This delay upends plans that have been in motion for years throughout the food industry. We will continue to strongly advocate on behalf of what is best for small businesses and American consumers,” says Cicely Simpson, executive vice president of government affairs & policy, National Restaurant Association, in a statement.

The rule applies to any restaurant or retailed serving food for away-from-home consumption with more than 20 locations “doing business under the same name … and offering for sale substantially the same menu items” will be required to label their menus and signage with calorie counts, says the FDA website. This includes franchises that operate with the same name as other franchises or parent companies.

Restaurants and retail chains are required to list calorie counts for individual foods and beverages as well as combo meals next to the name or price of the item. Where self-service foods are offered, such as at salad bars and buffets, calories must be shown on signs near foods.

This included:

  • Total calories
  • Calories from fat
  • Total fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Total carbohydrates
  • Fiber
  • Sugars
  • Protein

It was also going to be a rule that nutritional facts must also substantiated in labs to prove that they are accurate.

And for menus and menuboards to provide context by stating that it is recommended that adults consume 2,000 calories a day, but that individual calorie needs vary, says the FDA’s website.