39176749_s (1)Under pressure from large retailers, trade associations and lawmakers, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) will delay rules requiring certain food establishments to list calories on their menus.  The original deadline was December 1, 2015.  Businesses now have until December 1, 2016 to comply.

In previous posts, we blogged in detail about the FDA’s food labeling rules for restaurants and vending machines.  Certain chain restaurants, grocery stores and other food establishments must list calorie counts on menus, publish suggested daily caloric intake, and make available other nutrition information.  The rule derives from the nutrition labeling provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Since publication, the FDA has frequently received requests to further interpret the rule and to confirm whether specific practices are acceptable.  In response it published a compliance guide for small entities, which we detailed in an earlier blog.  The FDA recently announced that it will post a compliance FAQ this summer, which will be in “draft” form to encourage comments on the FDA’s guidance.

The FDA also received multiple requests from stakeholders for a 1-year extension of the rule to give businesses more time to comply.  According to the extension requests, additional time is needed to develop software and information systems, train staff and implement standard operating procedures. In May, 32 senators joined the call for an extension and greater clarity of the rule’s requirements, noting that businesses needed more time to budget and plan.

The extra year to comply will give covered businesses–many of whom are franchised businesses–much needed breathing room on compliance, but they are well advised to start planning early. The FDA’s final rules are highly detailed, require restaurants to substantiate the nutritional content that they publish, and empower the FDA to enforce compliance.  Experienced counsel can help businesses understand whether they are affected and, if so, how best to satisfy the new standards.