Rules for calorie labeling on restaurant menus: where are they?
Remember menu labels? We’ve had them in New York City since 2008.
In 2010, President signed national menu labeling into law as part of the Affordable Care Act. The FDA proposed rules for labels in 2011, collected comments on the proposed rules, missed the July 3, 2014 deadline for issuing them, and by all reports sent them to the White House Office of Management and Budget last April.
- Food Labeling; Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments; Proposed Rule
- Food Labeling; Calorie Labeling of Articles of Food in Vending Machines; Proposed Rule
What is the holdup? Lobbying of course.
- The delay on releasing the final rules is widely reported to be due to lobbying efforts by industry groups. Known to have visited the White House and FDA officials are, among others, the Food Marketing Institute, Publix Super Market, Schnuck Markets, Kroger, Dominos Pizza, the Pizza Hut Franchise Association and Hungry Howies.
- The Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the National Grocers Association (NGA) and Food Industry Association Executives (FIAE) held a lobbying “fly-in” to prevent FDA’s final menu labeling rule for calorie disclosures being extended to grocery stores.
- A bill backed by the supermarket industry is the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 1249/S. 1756) which would require menu labeling only for establishments where the majority of business is derived from restaurant-type food.
As for whether menu labels do any good:
- A CDC study reports that nearly all adults say they notice menu calorie labels, but only 57% say they use them.
- Research on the effectiveness of menu labeling has yielded mixed results and more research is needed, says a review published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
- One recent study says menu labeling has little influence on calories ordered regardless of how overweight people are.
- Menu labeling raises ethical issues related to population health and social equity, says another study.
At the moment, studies of the effects of menu labeling are restricted to laboratory models or situations in New York and other cities that passed such laws within the last few years.
More definitive research must wait for the final FDA rules and their application.
How about releasing the rules soon? They’ve been dragging on way too long.