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More Time for Proper Guidance on Menu Labeling

By: Jennifer Hatcher, Senior Vice President, Public and Government Affairs, Food Marketing Institute  Salad Bar in Grocery Store

On July 9, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a one-year extension to the compliance date for restaurants – and those deemed by FDA to be “similar retail food establishments” – to comply with the chain-restaurant-menu-labeling final rule.  Covered food establishments now have until December 1, 2016 to implement FDA’s menu labeling requirements. 

As supermarkets, FMI members have been challenged with the business implications of implementing a rule designed for restaurants and still face many unanswered questions.  FDA’s announcement will hopefully give our members time to get more clarity and answers without feeling rushed to make difficult business decisions by a compliance date previously set for this December. 

While we are also encouraged by the agency’s announcement to release draft guidance next month, we hope FDA will continue to address the many labeling scenarios created under this rule in future updates.  To help with this process, we outlined a number of industry concerns and questions that are critical for supermarkets before they can even try and comply with a rule of this magnitude. 

For example, FDA must clarify that the regulation only covers items standardized at 20 or more locations and not items served at one or two locations within a 20-store business.  Our members often provide unique offerings at different locations to reflect regional or community tastes, a far cry from the standardized nature of a chain restaurant.  A lack of guidance here might force food retailers to reduce the variability in their food offerings, a move that would come at the expense of our customers.

We are developing the best resources we can develop under the circumstances. To assist our members in this process, FMI compiled a draft menu labeling implementation guide.  This working document will be updated as we learn more from FDA upon release of the agency’s guidance.

Even with the FDA’s compliance extension, we are not giving up steam on our legislative agenda.  FMI encourages you to access our Action Alert on menu labeling to urge your House members to support H.R. 2017, bipartisan legislation that would clarify and address industry concerns with several provisions of the regulation.  Additionally, FMI developed a menu labeling “status” document that provides additional information on the extended compliance date and an update on our legislative efforts to date.

We have all been working on menu labeling implementation for several years now to ensure that the requirements account for the operational complexities and realities of our industry, and I am grateful for all the hard work from the membership on this issue.  Please don’t delay in sharing questions or concerns that you have with our experts at FMI.

Menu Labeling Status Chart