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The day of reckoning for fast food restaurants has been postponed, thanks to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).This Thursday, the FDA announced that it has decided to delay the implementation of a rule requiring all chain restaurants and retail food stores of a certain size to list the nutritional and caloric information of their menu items to December 1 2016.
First issued on December 1 2014, the FDA was originally set to force affected businesses to abide with the rule later this December. It’s an extension that the agency only came to after some careful deliberation and dialogue with the food industry itself, according to the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner For Foods and Veterinary Medicine, Michael R. Taylor.
“Industry, trade and other associations, including the grocery industry, have asked for an additional year to comply with the menu labeling final rule, beyond the original December 2015 compliance date,” said Taylor in a statement. “The FDA agrees additional time is necessary for the agency to provide further clarifying guidance to help facilitate efficient compliance across all covered businesses and for covered establishments to come into compliance with the final rule.”
The actual rule specifically covers “restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, offering for sale substantially the same menu items and offering for sale restaurant-type foods.” A similar rule covers operators who own 20 or more vending machines.
Foods that would need to be listed under the calorie count include: All foods served at a sit-down or drive-thru restaurant; made-to-order deli sandwiches from a grocery store, theater concessions; and certain alcoholic beverages. Foods that won’t need to be tallied include items that are intended for more than one person, like hunks of deli meat — clearly the FDA has never met my family.
Later this August, the FDA plans to release a sort of FAQ for businesses to refer to in understanding how to abide by the calorie-counting rule. Several chains, such as McDonald’s, have already and voluntarily provided all their restaurants with calorie counts.
Though the FDA states that “making calorie information available will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families,” the actual evidence for calorie counts reducing the total amount of food or calories restaurant patrons take in is somewhat muddled.
“Menu labeling with calories alone did not have the intended effect of decreasing calories selected or consumed,” concluded a 2014 review in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The addition of contextual or interpretive nutrition information on menus appeared to assist consumers in the selection and consumption of fewer calories.”
The FDA estimates that as much as one-third of the average person’s daily calories come from outside the home.
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