A bipartisan group of more than 30 Senators urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to delay the rule requiring chain restaurants or similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations to display calorie counts on menus and menu boards.
In a letter dated May 15, Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said the FDA lacks a clear direction over many elements of the final rule. The Senators said the FDA hasn’t provided clear answers to questions or guidance for those locations that would be impacted.
The FDA’s menu-labeling rule is set to take effect Dec. 1.
“While we recognize the benefit of improved access to nutritional information for consumers, we are concerned that the lack of clear and consistent guidance from the agency will make it difficult, confusing, and burdensome for businesses, particularly smaller businesses,” the letter said. “Businesses, particularly small businesses, will need appropriate time to budget and plan accordingly to meet the rule’s requirements to provide nutrition information to consumers that is understandable and clear, and therefore, of the greatest value to consumers.”
U.S. Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) in April introduced H.R. 2017, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015, which would allow more flexibility for retailers as they seek to comply with the menu-labeling regulations.
Among its provisions, the proposed legislation would limit menu-labeling to establishments that derive 50 percent or more of their revenue from food for immediate consumption or prepared and processed on site.
The proposed legislation also would require covered establishments to only identify one menu in the store to include calorie information, clarifies that advertisements and posters do not need to be labeled and ensures that retailers acting in good faith are not penalized for inadvertent errors in complying with the rule. It also seeks flexibility in disclosing calorie content for variable menu items and would provide stores 90 days to correct alleged violations. The measure also would delay the law’s implementation date for at least two to three years.
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