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FDA Extends Compliance Date on Menu Labeling

FDA announced today it will give restaurants and “similar retail food establishments” an additional year – until December 1, 2016 — to comply with its menu labeling rule.  The final rule originally required compliance by December 1, 2015.

The FDA notice announcing the extension states that the agency received four requests for an extension citing the time needed to develop nutrition labeling software, train staff, implement standard operating procedures, and update menus and menu boards across numerous locations.

Another reason for an extension not mentioned by FDA is that implementation has proven to be more complicated than anticipated.  Given the wide variety of retail establishments covered by the rule, everything from quick service restaurant chains to movie theatre concessions to convenience stores, there are many questions that still need to be answered by FDA in guidance.  Yet, FDA’s much-anticipated draft guidance document has not been released.

FDA says the draft guidance will be published in August.  FDA also promises to provide training and technical assistance to covered businesses and the state, local, and tribal regulatory agencies that will likely take the lead in enforcement.  FDA also pledges to “work flexibly and collaboratively with individual companies making a good faith effort to comply with the law.”

FDA had also been under pressure from Congress to grant a one-year extension, including a spending limitation in the FY 2016 bill approved by the full House Appropriations Committee that would have prevented use of funds to implement, administer, or enforce the regulation until December 1, 2016 or one year after the date FDA issued a draft guidance document.

The menu labeling rule requires that restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations post calorie information for standard menu items on menus and menu boards and provide additional nutrition information in writing on the premises.

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