Is the 'Groundhog Day effect' finally over for menu labeling?
As I think through the last eight years of being in the menu labeling business, I am amazed that it has taken this long to get where we are as an industry right now. What's even more amazing is that it is still not settled. Today we appear to be three months and a few days from "enactment" of menu labeling. And just ike Bill Murray's character in the movie, "Groundhog Day," getting stuck on a loop where his life repeats itself every day — we have been here before and more than once.
In March of 2010, the industry was introduced to national menu labeling standards when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. From there, the FDA took over four years to release the final regulations. The initial enforcement date of Dec. 1, 2015, ended up changing four times over the course of three years. The most shocking delay came last May, just one day before the rules were set to go live. Feeling the pressure from different industry groups, the FDA's new commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, decided to postpone the deadline once more to May 7, 2018, and to open the regulations up to another round of comments. Despite this initial delay, Gottlieb has spoken out several times to voice his support of menu labeling and to ensure that the May 7 date would not be changing.
His full statement following the release of the most recent draft guidance can be found here.
While the draft guidance provides some useful examples of how to approach different labeling scenarios, the regulations themselves haven't been altered. Calories still must be displayed on any menus or menu boards that a consumer can use to make an ordering decision. That includes self-serve stations like salad bars and buffets, or food on display like bakery display cases or build-your-own burrito bars. One of the most hotly debated topics, pizza, was given quite a bit of real estate in the guidance document. The FDA reiterated that calories can be shown per slice of pizza, as long as the total number of slices per pizza is also declared.
While it may seem like we've been through this all before, there's a little more certainty with time around. We have a committed FDA commissioner who wants to see the regulations come to fruition and wants to work with the industry to make enforcement as straightforward as possible. We can't predict what will happen over the next three months, but we do think the Groundhog Day effect is coming to an end for menu labeling.
Betsy Craig Betsy Craig brings 20 years of food service industry experience to MenuTrinfo, LLC a menu nutritional labeling Company. Her commitment to the betterment of the food industry and her desire to affect the dining public are the driving forces behind her new company Kitchens with Confidence, LLC. www