FDA Says Writing Menu Labeling Regulations That Please Everyone Is A Tough Task

If you’re hankering for a calorie count on your local restaurant chain’s menus, it’s going to be awhile: the Food and Drug Administration says it’s finding the task of writing up menu labeling regulations a very tricky one. The requirement to include calorie counts on menus and in vending machines is part of the 2010 health care law, but the rules on which businesses must comply have yet to be written.

Big pizza already protested that calorie counts don’t make sense for its eateries, and they’re not the only industry fighting back against the idea. For the most part, restaurants seem to be onboard, but grocery stores and other non-restaurant businesses have been lobbying hard to be exempt, reports the Associated Press.

The head of the FDA tells the AP that writing up the new menu labeling law “has gotten extremely thorny,” as the agency tries to figure out who would fall under the menu labeling requirement umbrella.

“There are very, very strong opinions and powerful voices both on the consumer and public health side and on the industry side, and we have worked very hard to sort of figure out what really makes sense and also what is implementable,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

She adds that it’s become one of the most challenging issues for the FDA, as it might make sense on paper for some establishments to adhere to the law but in practice, it’d be pretty difficult.

Those same challenges of who has to do what are currently facing the Bloomberg administration in New York, as the mayor’s proposed ban on large sugary drinks was struck down as invalid by the state supreme court yesterday.

The FDA is in the final stages of writing up the regulations and the final word could come as soon as spring, but that deadline could be pushed back as the food industry and regulators keep fighting over how they should be written.

Under the proposed rule from 2011, chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, along with bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stores and coffee chain would have to post the calorie count for every item they offer. Vending machines would also have to do the same if the info wasn’t clearly visible on the packaging.

Alcohol isn’t included in the requirement, and any businesses who don’t sell food as their primary business would also be exempt.

Menu labels a ‘thorny’ issue, FDA head says [Associated Press]