FDA Gives another Year for Adding Calorie Counts to Menus

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Calorie CountsThe Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given an additional year for businesses, restaurants, and movie theaters to post calorie counts on their menus. The new deadline for making the menu changes is set for December 1, 2016.

Most consumer advocates see the change as a setback for public health concerns, but some supporters believe that moving the deadline back has more to do with bureaucratic issues than influence from the food industry.

The original deadline of December 1, 2015 was a bipartisan concern among 32 senators. In May, led by health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), these senators had issued a letter urging the FDA to consider the delay. The letter stated that, “while we recognize the benefit of improved access to nutritional information for consumers… the lack of clear and consistent guidance from the agency will make it difficult, confusing, and burdensome for businesses, particularly small businesses, to implement the new requirements by the [2015 deadline].”

Part of the confusion comes down to this: When the FDA issued its ruling in 2014, it was more encompassing than many advocates had expected. In addition to applying to food establishments with 20 or more locations, foods—such as those in vending machines, sold in amusement parks, and certain prepared foods sold in salad bars or hot bars in supermarkets—were included. Beverages served in establishments that are identified on menus or boards are also included, but not a bar’s mixed drinks.

The House had attempted to modify the rule through the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, which had a provision limiting the menu requirements to establishments that made over half their revenue from prepared foods. A sponsor of the bill removed the provision after the Center for Science in the Public Interest criticized the measure for creating a loophole.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“32 Senators Urge FDA to Provide Clarity to Businesses Before Enforcing Menu Labeling Rule | The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions,” U.S. Senate web site; http://www.help.senate.gov/chair/newsroom/press/32-senators-urge-fda-to-provide-clarity-to-businesses-before-enforcing-menu-labeling-rule, last accessed July 10, 2015.
Tavernise, S., “F.D.A. Extends Deadline for Calorie Counts on Menus,” The New York Times, July 9, 2015; http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/10/health/fda-delays-deadline-for-calorie-count-on-menus.html.