The agency, which is still working to implement menu labeling rules under the Affordable Care Act, said that it was delaying the rules partly to account for the many types of retail facilities that serve food. Some associations had called for a delay, but at least one was disappointed by the last-second change.
The Food and Drug Administration’s forthcoming menu labeling rules are going to be forthcoming for a little while longer.
The rules, expected to go into effect this Friday, will now be delayed until May 7, 2018, to allow for additional time for implementing the regulations, which were mandated as part of the Affordable Care Act.
“This extension allows for further consideration of what opportunities there may be to reduce costs and enhance the flexibility of these requirements beyond those reflected in the interim final rule,” the FDA stated on its website.
The move by the agency came as some trade groups were concerned about the impact of the rules. NACS — The Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing and the National Grocers Association petitioned the FDA on the issue in a joint filing last month, citing concerns about a lack of clarity from the FDA on general compliance issues.
“Clearly, serious compliance and coverage questions remain under the Final Rule, and even if FDA were to address all of them today, there would not be sufficient time for businesses to be in compliance on May 5,” the petition said, according to an NACS statement. “The impossibility of compliance for many businesses is reason enough to stay the Final Rule.”
American Pizza Community, which represents pizza restaurants such as Domino’s, had a different take on the issue, according to the Associated Press: It doesn’t make sense, in the case of its restaurants, to list calorie counts on its menus, since most orders happen outside of the store anyway.
In its comments on the delay, the FDA suggested that accounting for differing business models played a role in its reasoning.
“Retailers with many different and diverse business models have raised concerns about how the rule lacks flexibility to permit them to provide meaningful nutrition information to consumers given their type of business and different operations,” the agency said [PDF]. “Moreover, we continue to receive many questions about calorie disclosure signage for self-service foods, including buffets and grab-and-go foods.”
But while the move was welcomed in some corners, one major trade group expressed disappointment, claiming its members were ready to go. The National Restaurant Association, in an emailed statement following the FDA’s decision, expressed concern “with the impact of the delay in the implementation of the federal menu labeling law just days before the scheduled effective date.”
“This delay upends plans that have been in motion for years throughout the food industry,” NRA said. “We will continue to strongly advocate on behalf of what is best for small businesses and American consumers.”