FDA Withdraws Menu Labeling Guidance, Will Work on Rules

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The FDA has announced that it is immediately withdrawing its guidance to the food industry issued in August about how companies should do menu labeling. It will start formal rulemaking instead. Try some FDA-speak:

As stated in the draft guidance, certain provisions of section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act became requirements immediately upon enactment of the law. FDA also stated that it anticipated issuing the final guidance and enforcement policy in December 2010.FDA received many comments on the draft guidance and on a public docket which FDA opened to solicit comment.

Based, in part, on these comments, FDA now intends to complete the notice and comment rulemaking process for section 4205 before initiating enforcement activities and will not be publishing a final guidance on menu labeling at this time. FDA is required to issue proposed regulations to carry out provisions of section 4205 no later than March 23, 2011. FDA intends to meet this statutory deadline.

FDA believes that the expeditious completion of the rulemaking process for section 4205 will minimize uncertainty and confusion among all interested parties. This approach to implementing section 4205 will most rapidly lead to full and consistent availability of the newly required nutrition information for consumers.

I'm not sure how to translate this. I think it means that companies currently posting calories should continue to do so.

The FDA still needs time to work out some of the sticky details—calorie ranges like the ones used by Chipotle, for example. It intends to meet the legislated deadline for issuing rules a year from now. States and local communities currently requiring calorie labeling should continue to do so but should off on enforcement until then.

Let's not hurry these things.

Unsurprisingly, the restaurant industry "supports this approach." As The Packer put it, "Don't sweat menu labeling just yet. This just in from the FDA...."

Patience is a virtue. This will happen. Eventually.


This post also appears on foodpolitics.com.

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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