By: Rob Rosado, Senior Director, Food & Health Policy, Food Marketing Institute
FDA building

FDA has provided food retailers with an opportunity to secure meaningful flexibility to provide “menu labeling” information to customers in a more efficient, accurate, and less costly manner than FDA’s current regulations.

In early May FDA formally extended the menu labeling rule compliance date until May 7, 2018, due to substantive regulatory and enforcement concerns expressed by many food retailers. But even more important, FDA has opened a 60-day comment period to review potential changes to the menu labeling rule itself that will reduce the regulatory burden and increase flexibility.

This is certainly a worthwhile effort even for those supermarkets that went forward with and continue to provide calorie information in the prepared foods area. The comment process provides an opportunity to identify and fix problematic aspects with applying “menu labeling” regulations in grocery store settings while retaining the statute’s federal preemption (including those protections for supermarkets) in the meantime. We have heard from many FMI members who are using this time to review and make adjustments to implementation plans. More specifically though, we need FMI members’ input on changes to the rule that enable your stores to implement “menu labeling” that is consistent with and has minimal disruption to fresh, sustainability and other transparency initiatives.

Some entities and NGOs, however, are likely to challenge this process as well as the statute’s federal preemption in the months ahead, which in an unfortunate way, demonstrates the need for FMI to continue pressing solutions that protect the supermarket industry.

FMI has continually sought common sense flexibility, such as liability protections for good-faith compliance efforts, allowing the use of a central menu board for a salad bar, and creating a regulatory environment that preserves the opportunity for selling locally-made and locally-sourced foods. These are sensible modifications with proven bipartisan congressional support within the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 772/S. 261) that we hope will be incorporated into the rule and underlying statute.

FMI is in the process of compiling comments in response to FDA’s request, which are due July 3, 2017. Furthermore, FMI continues to support the enactment of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act. We highly encourage FMI members to do the same.

For help interpreting the FDA’s current menu labeling requirements please see FMI’s implementation guide.

Photo Credit: U.S. Food and Drug Administration