The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wisely moved the date that chain restaurants and other similar retail food establishments need to comply with new FDA menu labeling regulations to a date to be announced in 2017. The FDA statement from Dr. Susan Mayne, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, reads as follows:
As a result of language in the omnibus appropriations bill enacted December 18, 2015 (Public Law 114-113 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016), FDA is delaying enforcement from December 1, 2016, to the date that is one year after it issues final, Level 1 guidance on menu labeling. The draft Level 1 guidance was issued on Sept. 11, 2015, and FDA is considering all comments received and will issue the final guidance as soon as possible.
FDA appreciates the extensive input received from stakeholders throughout the process of establishing requirements for menu labeling and in developing guidance. We will work flexibly and cooperatively with establishments covered by the menu labeling final rule to facilitate compliance and will provide educational and technical assistance for covered establishments and for our state, local, and tribal regulatory partners.
The final guidance could be released in spring or summer. The clock resets to 1 year after the release of final guidance. This time frame allows chain restaurants to make their plans in a well thought our manner after final guidance.
Here at the Brewers Association, we have been working with FDA and the USDA to work up a submission plan for beer styles to be included in the USDA Nutrient Database. This extra time will certainly aid our ability to accumulate data on calories and the 10 other required nutrient categories for a greater number of beer styles that can be included in this database. That database can serve as a reference point for brewers and restaurants for compliance.
Our friends at the National Grocers Association, whose members were swept into the ruling for food on display such as pizza bars or perhaps growler stations, promoted H.R. 2017, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act. This bill attempts to clarify that a menu item must be available in 20 or more outlets doing business under the same name. H.R. 2017 passed the House of Representatives and is headed to the Senate.
What this bill means for small brewers is that a beer from a local brewer that was available in one or a few of a chain’s stores would be exempt from the requirement. Of course, the restaurant group would have the option of labeling the calories on menus and menu boards if they choose to and could ask brewers for that info. The USDA Nutrient Database can be the reference that brewers can point to in that circumstance, which should allow brewers to not have to test every single beer at high cost.
More information to come as the matter develops. Cheers!
March 16, 2016