The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended the compliance date for menu labeling requirements. The original deadline of May 5, 2017, has been extended another year to May 7, 2018. In laymen's terms, the law would require all foodservice establishments--including grocery stores, restaurants, and others--to disclose calorie counts on their menus.

According to FDA, “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.”

If you are curious about what the menu labeling requirements entail, FDA published a set of frequently asked questions--along with answers--back in October 2016. Two of the most pressing question are below:

How do menu labeling requirements impact packaged food manufacturers?
The requirements for menu labeling largely affect a different segment of industry—restaurants and similar retail food establishments. We do not expect these requirements to have a great impact on manufacturers. Those establishments that are covered by the menu labeling rule must comply with menu labeling requirements by [new date: May 7, 2018].

What about the targets for sodium reduction that FDA is developing? 
The targets for sodium reduction that FDA is developing are voluntary so there will be no compliance date. However, we are recommending timeframes for companies that choose to implement the targets, once finalized. FDA has published for public comment draft voluntary targets for reducing sodium in commercially processed and prepared food both in the short-term (2 years) and over the long-term (10 years).

In addition to the date extension, FDA is welcoming comments for 60 days on the implementation of the menu labeling requirements. The agency would like feedback on how to reduce the regulatory burden on food companies, how to increase flexibility with respect to calorie disclosure signage on self-service foods and other non-menu areas.

The extension will be effective on May 4, 2017, when the Federal Register publishes the extension in advance of the May 5 compliance date. The 60-day comment period will begin on May 4, 2017.

Comments can be submitted online via Written comments can be sent to:

Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061
Rockville, MD 20852

All comments should be identified with Docket No. FDA-2011-F-0172 for “Food Labeling; Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments; Extension of Compliance Date and Request for Comments.”

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