FDA Extends Menu Labeling Compliance Date One Year

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a one-year extension in the required implementation date for chain restaurants of 20 or more units from December 1, 2015 to December 1, 2016. Many restaurants have already been moving forward on this issue with contacting brewers to get their nutrient data. I suspect that since the ball is rolling, many chains will continue with these plans and get in front of potential media coverage after calorie counts on menus and menu boards become commonplace, and restaurants are required to have 10 other nutrients available upon request.

In recent conversations with FDA staff, I learned that the FDA was looking hard at an implementation date delay with knowledge of a letter sent to FDA by 30 U.S. senators asking for a one-year extension due to the need for more guidance to industry. The conversations with FDA also showed a desire by FDA to come up with database solutions for many of the nutrients. There will be draft guidance forthcoming in August according to Michael Taylor’s statement from the FDA below followed by a comment period. Once released and reviewed, stay tuned for an explanation of the guidance and sample comments to educate FDA on suggested solutions and any potential burdens on industry.

FDA Statement on Extension of Menu Labeling Compliance Date

By Michael R. Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine

July 9, 2015

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration appreciates and takes very seriously the extensive input it has received from stakeholders throughout the process of establishing requirements for menu labeling in restaurants and other retail food establishments. The FDA is committed to working collaboratively with those establishments covered by the menu labeling final rule, including chain restaurants, covered grocery stores, and others to facilitate timely and efficient implementation of the new requirements.

Since the FDA issued the menu labeling final rule on December 1, 2014, the agency has had extensive dialogue with chain restaurants, covered grocery stores and other covered businesses, and answered numerous questions on how the rule can be implemented in specific situations. Industry, trade and other associations, including the grocery industry, have asked for an additional year to comply with the menu labeling final rule, beyond the original December 2015 compliance date. The FDA agrees additional time is necessary for the agency to provide further clarifying guidance to help facilitate efficient compliance across all covered businesses and for covered establishments to come into compliance with the final rule. The FDA is extending the compliance date for the menu labeling rule to December 1, 2016, for those covered by the rule.

To support compliance by this date, the FDA will continue to engage in discussions with the covered businesses and to answer questions about how the rule applies in particular situations. In addition, the FDA plans to issue in August 2015 a draft guidance document that provides answers to some of the more frequently asked and crosscutting questions that the agency has received to further assist covered establishments in complying with the rule. This guidance document will be labeled “draft” to reflect the FDA’s openness to further comments and dialogue and to expanding the guidance as new questions arise. The FDA encourages companies to consider the information in the August guidance as they prepare to comply by December 2016.

There will be an opportunity for comment on the draft guidance and the FDA will review any comments received as quickly as possible.

In addition to the guidance, the FDA will also provide educational and technical assistance for the covered businesses and for our state, local, and tribal regulatory partners to support reasonable and consistent compliance nationwide. Now and following the December 1, 2016 compliance date, the FDA will work flexibly and collaboratively with individual companies making a good faith effort to comply with the law.

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