Restaurants Get Calorie-Count Reprieve, But Associations Still Want Changes

Food-industry groups say that the FDA's plan to delay the implementation of calorie-disclosure rule is welcome, but groups representing convenience stores and pizza shops, among others, say that the rule needs to be softened.

It’ll be an extra year before fast food’s guilt-driving calorie count stares you in the face.

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it was allowing extra time for companies to comply with the Obamacare-mandated rule, which is largely targeted at chain restaurants. Now, the FDA will delay the compliance deadline, originally set for this December, until December 1, 2016.

“The FDA is committed to working collaboratively with those establishments covered by the menu labeling final rule, including chain restaurants, covered grocery stores, and others to facilitate timely and efficient implementation of the new requirements,” the FDA emphasized in a statement.

The rule is simply delayed, not removed—but the extra time could help restaurants better prepare for the consequences the fairly broad law could have on meals. It’s not just burger joints that are feeling the pressure, either: Industry groups representing food and drink as diverse as wine and pizza have criticized the measure, saying the rule could come with significant implementation costs.

Food Groups React

The federal regulation, which targets food establishments with more than 20 locations, received initial support from the National Restaurant Association, which says that it will continue to work with the FDA to “ensure a smooth transition for restaurants and consumers alike.” The measure, however, has proved more controversial for groups representing grocery and convenience stores.

The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), which has been critical of the regulation touching its industry, welcomed the delay, but suggested it was only a temporary salve.

“There are still many unanswered questions about how the rule, written for the fast food industry, would be logically applied to our chain of retail and the FDA is months behind schedule in offering its official guidance on compliance,” the association said in a news release.

Both NACS and the National Grocers Association (NGA) cited bipartisan efforts in the House to pass the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), would offer clarifications on how the calorie requirements are implemented.

In comments, NGA Vice President of Public Affairs Greg Ferrara noted that the association supported the bill, saying it “reduces the burdens of this regulation and provides the necessary reforms and flexibility to our members.”

And American Pizza Community, a trade group for pizza-delivery services, noted that the delay in the implementation of the rule highlights their weaknesses.

“Unfortunately, FDA proceeded with an approach to final rule that impose significant compliance costs without achieving any meaningful improvements in consumer education,” APC Chairwoman Lynn Liddle, the executive vice president of Domino’s, said in a statement to The Washington Post.

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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