The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has again delayed enforcement of menu labeling rules, pushing the need for restaurant chains to show calorie counts on menus and menu displays into 2017.
Associated Press reports that the final rules released in 2014 were first stipulating that restaurants and other establishments that sell prepared foods and have 20 or more locations were going to have to comply by the end of 2015. Last summer that got pushed to the end of this year.
And now it’s 2017, at least.
The years of delays have come as supermarkets, convenience stores and other retailers that never wanted to be part of the law have fiercely lobbied against them. The move will leave the final step to a new president, despite the Obama administration’s staunch support of menu labeling and other food policy to help Americans eat more healthfully. And it will give opponents more time to gather support for legislation that would roll back some of the requirements.
Grocery stores and convenience stores have said the rules would be more burdensome for them than they would be for restaurants, which typically have more limited offerings. Pizza chains like Domino’s have also opposed the rules, saying they don’t make sense for companies that take most of their orders online or over the phone.
AP reports that the latest delay is tied to language in a year-end spending bill in the US Congress that allowed the FDA to put off the December 2016 date until a year after it publishes the final guidance for retailers who have to put the rules in place. The FDA is still working on those guidelines, and the agency won’t “speculate” on when that’ll get done.
The situation is relevant to the digital signage business because the need for nutritional labeling on menus was a strong argument for the chain restaurant industry making the cutover from backlit signs to digital displays.
However, there has been widespread adoption of digital boards in QSR chains of all sizes, so it could be argued that shift is happening, FDA stipulations or not.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.