STOP THE PRESSES. The U.S. FDA Menu Labeling Rule was scheduled to go into effect on May 5, 2017, yet here we are with a wrench in the machine. A mere three days before the rule’s anticipated go live date, the FDA announced it is extending the menu labeling rule’s requirements until May 7, 2018 to “allow for further consideration of what opportunities there may be to reduce costs and enhance the flexibility of these requirements beyond those reflected in the interim final rule.”
The rule has been mired in controversy since its conception during the Obama administration under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). While the Trump administration’s defunct American Health Care Act (AHCA) failed to include the Menu Labeling Final Rule, it was generally accepted by many in the U.S. hospitality industry that the FDA would move forward with the enforcement of the rule starting on May 5, 2017.
Surprise! The rule finds itself in limbo yet again.
The National Restaurant Association isn’t exactly thrilled. In a statement by the NRA’s Cicely Simpson, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs & Policy, she said, “The National Restaurant Association is concerned with the impact of the delay in the implementation of the federal menu labeling law just days before the scheduled effective date. This delay upends plans that have been in motion for years throughout the food industry. We will continue to strongly advocate on behalf of what is best for small businesses and American consumers.”
The delay is in part due to 17 food industry groups, including the National Association of Convenience Stores and the National Grocers Association, petitioning the administration to delay the compliance date, citing that, “Petitioners believe the Final Rule falls squarely within the category of regulations disfavored by the Administration — those that are unduly burdensome and costly, and do not provide commensurate benefits.”
What Does this Mean for U.S. Chain Restaurant Owners?
While some chains are letting out sighs of relief that they get more time to implement the changes, others are frustrated with the amount of money they’ve invested in compliance. Depending on the level of investment, some restaurants may still begin to post new menu boards if they see the benefit of being transparent.
Naf Naf Grill, for example, invested upwards of $17,000 in new menu boards that were scheduled for installation. How are they handling the delay? As the Chicago Tribune reported, “[Co-CEO David Sloan] said he's unsure whether the chain will put the new menus up or keep the old ones if the regulations are pushed off. Naf Naf already posts calorie counts and other nutritional information online, and follows local posted calorie regulations where they have been adopted, like in Philadelphia.”
As we wait with bated breath for potential amendments to the rule based on feedback, one thing chain restaurants can be certain about is the need for operational agility. The more agile a restaurant's menu and menu board, the better they’ll be able to navigate turbulent waters.
Make sure your voice is heard. Submit comments on the interim final ruling and/or the extension through the FDA’s website by July 3, 2017.
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