Trade Groups Reviewing New FDA Menu Labeling Guidance

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a draft guidance document intended to assist companies in complying with the new federal menu-labeling rules.

In early July, the FDA pushed back the deadline to implement the menu-labeling requirements by one year. Restaurants, convenience stores and other qualifying establishments now have until Dec. 1, 2016 to comply with the federal menu-labeling rules.

The FDA extended the deadline after restaurants and other retailers stated they needed more time to put the new rules in place. The ongoing process includes training workers, installing menus and menu boards, and developing software for more efficient and specific calorie label displays.

The upcoming rules require caloric information to be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations to provide consumers with more nutritional information about the foods they eat outside the home.

Public comments are welcome on the FDA draft guidance document, and the agency said it will consider all comments before finalizing the guidance and consider updates.

“We are committed to working collaboratively with establishments covered by the menu labeling final rule, including chain restaurants, covered grocery stores serving restaurant-type food and others, now and in the future to answer additional questions,” the agency said in a statement.

Retail industry trade groups, including NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, are busy studying exactly what this new draft guidance means for their members. NACS stated it is currently reviewing the draft guidance and will have a full analysis in the coming days.

Other retail industry trade groups expressing similar sentiments are the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and National Grocers Association (NGA), both of which have criticized the FDA labeling rules.

“We certainly appreciate FDA's attempt to clarify a cumbersome regulation that was not originally designed for the supermarket industry,” said Leslie Sarasin, FMI president and CEO. “This guidance is a helpful start to what we hope will be an ongoing dialog about the most appropriate ways of addressing implementation questions being raised by food retailers.”

Sarasin said FMI is in the process of reviewing the guidance document with its members.

“At the same time, we will continue to work with FDA and pursue our legislative objectives with Congress in order to clarify and/or address the outstanding concerns,” she added. “As we and members of Congress have reminded FDA, chain restaurants and supermarkets are fundamentally different — and on issues as diverse as their business operations and their service offerings. So, we look forward to working with the agency in shaping guidance for a labeling process that makes sense both in a grocery store setting and to provide meaningful information to food retail customers.” 

Greg Ferrara, NGA’s vice president of public affairs, similarly stated: “We appreciate the FDA’s efforts to provide this additional guidance. NGA is committed to working with the FDA and our members to ensure they are prepared to comply with this law; however we feel it is important for Congress to act to pass legislation that provides important fixes to the law.”

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