U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan has approved an agreement that allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin enforcing regulations requiring chain restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience stores to include calorie counts on menus in May 2018. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the National Consumers League (NCL) sued FDA in June after the agency abandoned an earlier enforcement deadline only one day before enforcement was due to begin. The nonprofit law firm Earthjustice, which represents CSPI and NCL, and the Department of Justice agreed to stay further proceedings in that lawsuit following an August 25th statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb providing assurance that there will be no further delay and no changes to the menu labeling requirements.

Longtime advocates for menu labeling say that the agreement gives much-needed clarity both to consumers, who overwhelmingly want and use calorie and other nutrition information and to companies, many of which are already making calorie counts available to the public on their menus or websites.

FDA finalized the menu labeling rule in 2014, with compliance and enforcement due to begin before the end of 2015. The agency subsequently delayed enforcement until May 2017 and then, in the challenged rule, until May 2018. This agreement provides that the lawsuit challenging the delay will proceed only if FDA announces an additional delay of enforcement or fails to issue guidance to industry by the end of 2017. The guidance will clarify the menu labeling rule and aid implementation—but cannot weaken the rule’s requirements.

A bill pending in Congress, the so-called Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, would undermine the implementation of menu labeling by exempting take-out chains, including pizza restaurants, and others from some of the requirements, and by letting retailers use arbitrary serving sizes to mask total calorie content. The bill would also let supermarkets that sell restaurant-type food hide calorie information in less-visible locations. 

Read more at https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2017/fda-agrees-to-enforce-menu-labeling-rule-in-may-2018

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