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FDA pushes back deadline for labeling menus (again)

The FDA has pushed back the deadline for restaurants and retailers to add nutritional info to menus again, so what does this mean?

The original deadline was coming up soon

In 2010, regulations which applied to food labeling were passed to give customers knowledge about what they are eating. Businesses were given time to comply. The first deadline was in 2105, but businesses were given an extension to 2016.

By the end of the year, restaurants, convenience stores, and grocery stores with prepared foods were supposed to have calorie count and nutritional labels on the items. This included the salad bar and bakery items, but excluded daily specials or seasonal items and food trucks.

Another extension for retailers

The FDA has once again pushed back the deadline to 2017. What’s the problem? Supermarkets and convenience stores are saving that the labeling is burdensome and problematic. They have too much volume to label each item they sell, unlike restaurants, which have a limited offering. Now that more people are ordering online, some restaurants are saying that it doesn’t make sense for them to include labels on the food.

Vermont and New York City have their own menu labeling laws that are being followed by local businesses. Many states, for example, California, have passed laws concerning menu labeling, but have delayed implementation until the federal standards are codified. The real problem is that the FDA hasn’t finalized its guidelines for menu labeling. Retailers have a year following issuance of the guidelines to implement the labels. The FDA has not released a timeframe in which the final rules will be completed.

Businesses are concerned about following the complex guidelines for food labeling, but that hasn’t kept Panera, Starbucks, or McDonalds from giving their customers the nutritional information they need to eat healthier. The House is pushing legislation that offers narrower rules and provides options for restaurants and retailers to give the information. Supermarkets could use message boards. Restaurants could post calorie counts online, instead of at their business location. The Senate has not acted on the bill to date.

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Do menu labeling laws work?

Most people aren’t sure if calorie counts help people be healthier. In one study, from Hunter College, the researchers did find that calorie-labeling altered the behavior in overweight and obese individuals in an urban setting. The BMI of overweight women dropped by almost 1 percent, and for overweight men the change was 1.4 percent. Obese men changed their BMI by about 2 percent, but there was no drop in the BMI of obese women.

While this study doesn’t answer every question about calorie-labeling laws, it is a start to show that people want and need the information.


Dawn Brotherton is a Sr. Staff Writer at The American Genius with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is an experienced business writer with over 10 years of experience in SEO and content creation. Since 2017, she has earned $60K+ in grant writing for a local community center, which assists disadvantaged adults in the area.

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