On May 1, 2017, the FDA announced that it would issue an interim final rule that would extend the compliance date for the menu labeling rule to May 7, 2018. The original compliance date was just four days later on May 5, 2017.

The menu labeling rule requires restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items to provide calorie and other nutrition information for standard menu items, including food on display and self-service food.  The FDA issued final guidance on the rule on April 29, 2016.

The FDA stated that the reasoning behind the extension of the compliance date was the numerous industry questions and concerns received regarding the rule. Most recently, the agency received a citizen petition asking the FDA to revise the rule.  Additionally, the FDA explained that the delay in the compliance date would allow the agency to explore options to reduce implementation costs for industry and increase flexibility in the requirements, where possible, for industry.  The FDA also stated that reexamining the rule would be in line with recent executive orders, such as Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” that calls for reducing regulatory burdens and costs.

The menu labeling rule extension and possible rule revision, while a good sign for industry, comes only a few days before most of industry was set to comply with the rule – meaning that covered entities seeking to comply with the law  already paid the high costs to comply that the FDA aims to reduce by granting the rule extension and reexamining the rule.

The FDA is accepting comments from industry until July 3, 2017. Specifically, the agency would like to hear more about reducing regulatory burdens or increasing flexibility regarding issues such as:

  • Calorie signage for self-service foods, including buffets and grab-and-go foods;
  • Approaches for providing calorie disclosure information other than on the menu itself, including how different kinds of covered entities might employ different methods; and
  • Measures for distinguishing between menus and other information presented to the consumer.

The Health Law Pulse will continue to monitor developments with the menu labeling rule.