Writing a new menu labeling law has gotten "extremely thorny," according to the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as the agency tries to figure out who should be covered by it.
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 menu labeling has turned out to be one of the FDA's most challenging issues, and while requiring calorie counts in some establishments might make sense on paper, "in practice it really would be very hard."Hamburg said the FDA is in the final stages of writing the menu labeling regulations, due this spring.
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