Restaurants across America just got a yearlong extension on when they are required to start counting calories.
Last week, the FDA announced it would give chain restaurants, grocery stores and other outlets that sell prepared foods an extra year to add calorie counts to the menu, pushing the deadline from December 2015 to December 2016. According to the agency, the extra time is necessary to clarify guidance to allow for compliance.
Since the FDA issued the menu labeling rule in December 2014, affected businesses (food outlets with at least 20 locations) have been anxiously questioning exactly compliance with the new rule will look like. The FDA says it plans to continue to discuss these questions with businesses, with plans to issue a guidance document answering some frequently asked questions in August. However, the agency also says it is open to allowing continued dialogue to shape its guidance.
While some restaurants and grocers have opposed the new rule due to the cost of adding labels to menus across America, many complaints are rooted in the practicalities of the plan. Pizza chains, for example, have worried that they would be forced to provide calorie counts for an entire pie, instead of a slice, as well as list calorie counts for endless combinations of toppings. Grocery stores that serve prepared food are concerned by the sheer number of dishes that would require labeling (imagine the number of items at the salad bar alone). Other chain restaurants have worried about penalties associated with serving dishes with variable calorie counts – for example, an overly generous serving of mayonnaise increasing the number of calories enough to be considered a criminal penalty.
In addition to providing guidance in August, the FDA says it will provide educational and technical assistance for affected businesses to allow for efficient compliance – one year after originally planned.