FDA Delays Implementation of Menu Calorie Count Rules

Implementation of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirement that chain restaurants, grocery stores, and other food establishments post calorie counts on menus has been delayed until Dec. 1, 2016—a year later than FDA initially intended, and two years after publication of the ruling.

The change is in response to the numerous requests FDA received from the food industry to both further interpret the rules and delay enforcement of the rules. Industry officials cited concerns over the need to develop software, information systems and other technologies that would ensure accurate labeling; available time to complete staff training and develop new standard operating procedures; and install and capacity to update menu boards across all locations.

A statement by FDA indicates the delay was approved to “ensure that consumers are provided accurate, clear, and consistent nutrition information for foods sold in covered establishments in a direct and accessible manner.” Covered establishments are defined as food establishments with more than 20 locations doing business under the same name; this includes most chain restaurants, vending machines, grocery stores, and coffee shops, among other establishments.

Public health agencies including NACCHO have championed the menu labeling rule as an important step in ensuring Americans have the information needed to make healthy and nutritious choices in their meal planning, as well as a a possible step toward encouraging restaurants to include a wider variety of healthy choices in their offerings.

In addition to the new compliance deadline, FDA announced that it will issue additional guidance addressing some of the most frequently asked questions about the menu labeling rule. This is estimated to be available late summer.

About Katie Regan

Katie Regan serves as the Communications Specialist for Environmental Health, Pandemic Preparedness, and Catastrophic Response at NACCHO. Her work includes promoting local health departments' best practices through NACCHO's various storytelling and communications channels. Twitter: @katiejregan

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