Late last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave restaurants and other food serving establishments an extra year to comply with its controversial rule requiring calorie details on menus. Apparently, the FDA had received numerous requests to extend the deadline for compliance with the rule to December 2016 by businesses, industry associates and several U.S. Senators. The rule is filed as Food Labeling: Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments and can be found at FDA docket number 2011-F-0172-0001.

The menu labeling rule requires businesses with 20 or more locations selling “restaurant-type food” to list calorie counts on their menus and provide other nutritional information to customers on request. Presently, the rule applies to restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores and other locations that sell “ready-to-eat single servings” of food. FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor announced with notice of the extended compliance deadline that, “The FDA agrees additional time is necessary for the agency to provide further clarifying guidance to help facilitate efficient compliance across all covered businesses and for covered establishments to come into compliance with the final rule.”

Many industry groups are urging the passage of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, currently pending as H.R. 2017. The bill, authored by Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash), would amend the menu labeling rule so it applies to stores that get 50 percent or more of their revenue from the covered food items, presumably exempting grocery and convenience stores.

The bill would allow single menu items available in “different flavors, varieties, or combinations” including soft drinks, to include a range or average for the varieties instead of an exact calorie count for each. It would also expressly preclude any standing for civil suits over alleged violations of the rule.

Greg Ferrara, a vice president at the National Grocers Association, announced that the NGA will continue to support H.R. 2017, and that “while NGA appreciates the FDA recognizing the need for a delay, there are still are concerns surrounding implementation of the law.”

We will continue to watch the progress of FDA’s menu labeling rule and legislative efforts to address the same.