Three months and some change. That's the amount of time we "supposedly" have until menu labeling laws again roll around for enactment. Maybe. There's always a possibility with these much-delayed measures that another snag or protest will stop that process in its tracks and, as the much beloved New York Yankees Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said, it will be "deja vu all over again."
Who knew that his famous redundancy might actually end up making perfect sense when referring to the subject of U.S. menu labeling laws. After all, here we are at 2018 and the laws were, in fact, first introduced in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act.
From there, the FDA took more than four years to release the final regulations. The initial enforcement date of Dec. 1, 2015, ended up changing four times over the course of three years, with the most shocking delay last May, just one day before the rules were set to go live.
Feeling the pressure from different industry groups, the FDA's new commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, decided to postpone the deadline once more to May 7, 2018, and to open the regulations up to another round of comments. Despite this initial delay, Gottlieb has spoken out several times to voice his support for menu labeling and to ensure that the May 7 date would not change.
His full statement following the release of the most recent draft guidance can be found here.
While the draft guidance provides some useful examples of how to approach different labeling scenarios, the regulations themselves haven't been altered. Calories still must be displayed on any menus or menu board that a consumer can use to make an ordering decision. That includes at self-serve stations, like salad bars and buffets, or displayed food like bakery cases or build-your-own burrito bars.
In fact, one of the most hotly debated topics — pizza — was given quite a bit of real estate in the guidance document. The FDA reiterated that calories can be shown per slice of pizza, as long as the total number of slices per pizza are also declared.
So, though it may seem like we've been through this all before, there's a little more certainty with time around. We have a committed FDA commissioner who wants to see the regulations come to fruition and wants to work with the industry to make enforcement as straightforward as possible.
Of course, we can't predict what will happen over the next three months. But we're pretty sure Yogi Berra is smiling somewhere and thinking, "I told you so."
Betsy Craig Betsy Craig brings 20 years of food service industry experience to MenuTrinfo, LLC a menu nutritional labeling Company. Her commitment to the betterment of the food industry and her desire to affect the dining public are the driving forces behind her new company Kitchens with Confidence, LLC. www