Government Pushes Back Deadline For Restaurant Menu Labeling Again

Image courtesy of Jeremy Segrott

A law requiring calorie counts to be posted for most food items that people eat outside of their homes was part of the Affordable Care Act, which passed in 2010. Resistance from different parts of the food industry means that its implementation kept getting pushed back. Now, the newest delay pushes the deadline into 2017, and the calorie counts would be implemented under the next president.

The FDA originally approved the requirements back in 2014, and it covers all sorts of food consumed outside of our homes, ranging from movie theater popcorn to pizzas. As long as the eatery has more than 20 outlets, it’s required to post calorie counts. Only now, they don’t have to do it until next year.

One way to weaken the bill (other than just hitting the regulatory snooze button on the requirement, which is what happened again here) was a bill that passed the House a few weeks ago, which would allow food companies to define “serving” for themselves when posting calorie counts.

Pizzas are a good example, since pizzerias have fought these laws the most: the original rule would require the calorie count for an entire pizza to be posted, since consumers buy an entire pizza and decide for ourselves how many servings to cut it into. (Admit it, you’ve eaten an entire pizza by yourself before. At least a small one.)

Letting companies decide on an arbitrary “serving size” sort of makes sense for a pizza, but makes less sense for other food items. Are you really going to share an extra-large soda between three people?

Public health advocates are annoyed that menus still haven’t changed half a decade after the ACA passed. “Not only is it simple and straightforward but so many states and localities have already done this,” Margo Wootan of the Center for Science and the Public Interest told the Washington Post.

In some places, calorie counts are already a routine part of menus. In others, like California, they’re officially law but the law hasn’t been implemented while city or state governments wait for the federal version to be implemented.

Calorie labels on menus delayed again — to next year [Washington Post]