Restaurant Calorie Counts Delayed by Trump Administration

  • Lobby group says last-minute move ‘upends plans’ for industry
  • Food regulations had already been delayed twice under Obama

A U.S. rule that would have made restaurant chains display calorie counts on their menus has been delayed by the Trump administration, postponing a public-health initiative that had already been pushed back under President Obama.

The rule would have applied to restaurants with 20 or more locations, as well as coffee shops, movie theaters and other outlets that serve food. It will be delayed until May 7, 2018, while the Food and Drug Administration, which wrote the regulations, collects more feedback, the agency said.

“Under President Trump, our department will focus on promoting public health in ways that work for American consumers,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said in a statement Monday. “The FDA is asking for feedback about how to make the Menu Labeling Rule more flexible and less burdensome while still providing useful information to consumers.”

A trade group representing restaurants, however, said that the last-minute delay of the rule -- just days before it was slated to go into effect -- was in itself burdensome. Many businesses had already started complying with the rules, especially large chains such as Starbucks Corp. and McDonald’s Corp.

“The National Restaurant Association is concerned with the impact of the delay in the implementation of the federal menu labeling law just days before the scheduled effective date,” the group said in an emailed statement. “This delay upends plans that have been in motion for years throughout the food industry.”

The National Restaurant Association, which represents 500,000 businesses, calls itself the largest food-service trade group in the world.

Previous Setbacks

The labeling rule had already been delayed several times. After getting feedback from the food industry, it was pushed back by a year in 2015, and then delayed another year in 2016.

A separate restaurant group, the American Pizza Community, applauded the latest move. The U.S. pizza industry has been especially critical of menu-labeling laws. They argue that customers often order via their phones or computers, so it’s a costly waste of time to put nutritional information on physical menus inside stores.

“The previous approach threatened to impose excessive burdens on thousands of small businesses without achieving meaningful improvements in educating consumers,” the group said in a statement Tuesday. Its members include large chains such as Domino’s Pizza Inc., Papa John’s International Inc. and Papa Murphy’s Holdings Inc.

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