FDA withdraws guidance on menu labeling

Agency to delay enforcement until final rules are issued

The International Franchise Association voiced support Friday for a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to withdraw its draft guidance on federal menu labeling regulations as it works on final rules.

The FDA also told state and local authorities not to enforce the regulations until the final rule is published later this year.

In a statement, the agency said it recognized that the restaurant industry might require more guidance from the FDA and time to comply with the provisions that went into effect when the bill was signed last year. It said it plans to complete the full rulemaking process before it takes any enforcement action. Click here [3] to view the FDA’s announcement.

The FDA said it would issue proposed regulations by March 23.

The IFA applauded the move by the FDA, saying it would give franchise owners more time to comply.

“The decision to postpone guidance and conduct a full rulemaking process will allow stakeholders to provide input that will result in a workable regulation for small restaurant owners,” said IFA president and chief executive Stephen J. Caldeira.

The IFA said it had earlier urged the FDA to complete the full rulemaking process for all provisions included in the law, rather than implement a piecemeal approach that could confuse operators.

The draft guidelines were published by the FDA on Aug. 25 and requested public comments before the agency issued its final regulations

Among the details included in the guidelines were:
• Making slight variations to a chain’s name would not exempt the concept from the regulations.
• Menu items available for less than 60 days would not have to include nutrition data.
• Takeout menus and online menus should include calorie information.
• Any food on display, whether self-service or accessed by the restaurant staff, must include calorie data postings.

In announcing the withdrawal of the draft guidance, FDA officials said “this approach to implementing [the regulations] will minimize uncertainty and confusion among all interested persons.”

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected]