F.D.A. delays menu labeling enforcement date

The Food and Drug Administration said it is delaying the Dec. 1, 2016, effective date for enforcement of the government’s menu labeling regulations.

The agency issued a statement March 9 indicating federal menu-labeling requirements will not be enforced until one year after the F.D.A. publishes its final guidance on the rule. The menu labeling requirement was part of the health care law President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010.

The rule will require restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations operating under the same name and serving substantially the same menu items to post calorie information for standard menu items and provide guests with additional nutrition information upon request.

Enforcement originally was expected to begin Dec. 1, 2015, but has been delayed twice. In July 2015, the F.D.A. moved the enforcement deadline to Dec. 1, 2016, saying affected businesses needed more guidance and time to comply. Then in December Congress directed the F.D.A. to push the law’s enforcement date until one year after the agency published final guidance. The F.D.A.’s March 9 announcement makes this delay official.

The F.D.A. issued draft guidance for affected businesses in September 2015 but is still analyzing the feedback and has not yet indicated when that final guidance will be coming.

“F.D.A. appreciates the extensive input received from stakeholders throughout the process of establishing requirements for menu labeling and in developing guidance,” said Susan Mayne, the agency’s director for food safety and applied nutrition. “We will work flexibly and cooperatively with establishments covered by the menu labeling final rule to facilitate compliance and will provide educational and technical assistance.”

oan McGlockton, vice-president of industry relations and food policy at the National Restaurant Association, said the association long has supported a nationwide, uniform menu labeling standard for chain restaurants that provides flexibility for restaurants and preempts a patchwork of state and local laws.

“As the F.D.A. prepares further guidance, we will continue to work with the agency to address issues of concern for our industry and ensure a smooth transition for restaurants and consumers alike,” she said.