FDA Delays Enforcement Of Restaurant Menu Labeling Rule

When will menu labeling be fully and officially in effect? Although many chains already have implemented nutritional and calorie information on their menus and signs, the official rollout hit another hiccup last week when the Food and Drug Administration formally announced it will delay enforcement until one year after it issues its final guidelines on “Food Labeling: Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments.”

It marks the second time the agency has extended the compliance deadline. Enforcement of the menu labeling rule was scheduled to take effect December 1.

The decision by Dr. Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, was prompted by Congress, which nixed that date in a December 2015 spending bill, and gave no future date for enforcement. A provision in a federal appropriations law prohibits the FDA from using funds to implement, administer, or enforce the menu labeling rule until one year after the agency issues its final Level 1 guidance advising companies how to comply with the law. That guidance will likely be issued sometime this year.

The rules could also get tweaked by Congress. In February, the House approved a bill that would give restaurants and grocers more flexibility in how they label calorie counts on menus, while also enabling to-go operators such as pizza chains the ability to post calories on smartphone apps.

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