By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
Chain restaurants and retail food sellers will have another year to implement the Food and Drug Administration’s menu labeling requirements, after the agency extended its compliance deadline to May 7, 2018.
The rule, previously scheduled to take effect Friday, was created under the Affordable Care Act. This latest delay isn’t the first. Originally set to take effect in December 2015, the implementation was pushed back to December 2016 and then to May 5, 2017.
According to the FDA, the extension will allow the agency to consider changes that might reduce costs or provide food establishments with more flexibility. Specifically, the agency noted it would seek comments on calorie disclosure signage for self-service foods such as buffets and grab-and-go foods, alternate methods for providing calorie disclosure information, and ways to distinguish between menus and other information presented to consumers. Such items were already considered during the initial rule-making process.
The rule requires restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, movie theaters and other retail food chains with 20 or more locations to post the calorie content of standard menu items, including food on display and self-serve food. Additional nutrition information must be available upon request.
To put these calorie counts into context with a person’s overall diet, food establishments are required to include a daily calorie intake statement.
Many restaurants have already started implementing the changes. Some have gone even beyond the requirements. For example, Panera Bread, which has posted calorie information on its menus since 2010, announced in April that it would begin posting the amount of added sugars and calories in beverages.
Americans spend nearly half of their food budget on foods eaten away from home, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Yet a 2013 study showed fast food patrons underestimate the calories in meals.
As larger portion sizes have become commonplace in many restaurants, health organizations such as the American Heart Association have become concerned about overconsumption and the increased risk for cardiovascular disease and early death.
AHA CEO Nancy Brown was disappointed with the delay.
“Americans have been waiting seven years for this common-sense rule,” she said in a statement, noting that many retailers and restaurants “already comply with and welcome the certainty of a single menu labeling standard.”
She added, “We applaud these industry leaders and encourage others to follow their lead.”
The FDA is accepting public comment on the rule until July 3.