FDA Delays Menu Labeling Enforcement Until 2018

Just days before U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) enforcement of new menu-labeling regulations was set to begin, the government agency has once again postponed imposition of the rules — this time until 2018.

The new rules — which would require restaurants and foodservice establishments with more than 20 locations to disclose the caloric value and supplementary health criteria of beer, as well as other food and drinks, sold on-premise — were supposed to take effect on May 5, 2017.

But in a docket filed on May 1, Anna Abram, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for policy, planning, legislation, and analysis, said the agency had extended the compliance date until May 7, 2018, in order to “consider how we might further reduce the regulatory burden or increase flexibility while continuing to achieve our regulatory objectives, in keeping with the Administration’s policies.”

In its announcement, The FDA said it continues “to receive many questions about calorie disclosure signage for self-service foods, including buffets and grab-and-go foods.”

“Under President Trump, our department will focus on promoting public health in ways that work for American consumers,” Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price said in press release praising the delay. “Toward that end, the FDA is asking for feedback about how to make the Menu Labeling Rule more flexible and less burdensome while still providing useful information to consumers. We look forward to working with all involved to find the right balance.”

In a memo to members of the Beer Institute, Jim McGreevy, the trade group’s CEO, said the organization would “continue to advocate to the FDA over the next year that the final rule require calorie labeling of each beer listed on menus in restaurants and retail establishments” as the FDA seeks comments on the final rule.

“Also, we continue to support ensuring that calorie and other nutrition information on menus are calculated and rounded according to the Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) voluntary nutrient content statements for packaged beer,” McGreevy wrote.

Enforcement of the new menu labeling rules has been delayed multiple times since late 2014, when the FDA first said it would require chain establishments to list caloric information on their menus.

The rules were originally expected to take effect in December, 2015. That July, the FDA extended the compliance date one year, giving chain restaurants until December, 2016 to comply with the new regulations. Then, in March 2016, the FDA pushed back enforcement of the rules once again, extending the compliance date to May 5, 2017.

According to the FDA, alcoholic beverages are the fifth largest source of calories among adult Americans ages 19 years and older.

The Brewers Association had also been working with the FDA on a middle ground for small and independent brewers who may not be able to afford costly nutritional testing.

In March, the trade organization launched a beer nutrient database that reflects the average nutritional value featuring more than 40 popular craft styles in order to help small breweries comply with the FDA’s menu-labeling requirements. The database is available to BA members, and it allows brewers to calculate calories and carbohydrates using accurate gravity measurements and a digital calculator developed by the organization and the Scandinavian School of Brewing.

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