FDA Misses Menu-Labeling Law Deadline

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) missed its February deadline for issuing a menu-labeling law nearly a year after conceding that writing the new rule posed significant challenges.

The 2010 health care law charged the FDA with requiring chain restaurants and other establishments that serve food to put calorie counts on menus and in vending machines.

The agency issued a proposed rule in 2011, but the final rules have since been delayed. The 2011 proposed rules would require chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, along with bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stores and coffee chains, to clearly post the calorie count for each item on their menus. Additional nutritional information would have to be available upon request. The rules would also apply to vending machines if calorie information isn't already visible on the package.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in March 2013 that menu labeling had turned out to be one of the FDA's most challenging issues because requiring calorie counts in some establishments made sense on paper, but was turning out to be hard in practice. One major challenge, she said, was determining who should be covered by the law.

Legislation has recently been introduced to provide more flexibility for retailers as they seek to comply with the FDA regulations. NATSO supports the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, which calls for a less burdensome approach to menu labeling and includes language addressing the types of retail locations that are covered by the federal requirements. The legislation limits those requirements to apply only to restaurants or similar retail food establishments that derive more than 50 percent of their total revenue from the sale of food, with prepackaged food not being considered in this equation. For businesses that are covered by the rules, the legislation allows more flexibility in menu labeling, such as allowing calorie ranges as opposed to a specific number, which is difficult in made-to-order situations.

Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman's photo

Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman

Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman develops and executes communications strategies to advance NATSO’s public relations and advocacy goals. Tiffany also develops and oversees partnerships related to the NATSO Foundation’s public outreach initiatives. Tiffany lives in the D.C. metro area with her husband and their two sons.More
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