Jim Murphy & Sons

Calory labeling delayed again, and again, and again, now until 2017

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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration, the agency that can drag its feet seemingly forever in approving a hopeful new drug treatment, is now dragging its other foot for yet another year to require menu labeling rules.

In March, the FDA revealed that it will delay enforcement of menu labeling rules — again — until 2017. The final rules were released in 2014, after the FDA said it had struggled to balance the concerns of retailers with the intent of the law.

 A McDonald's restaurant sign lists calorie counts July in New York City. In 2008. the Big Apple became the first city in the country to implement a law forcing chain restaurants to post the calorie count of each food next to the items on their menus. Yet the FDA has delayed similar posting rules for the rest of us again.

A McDonald’s restaurant sign lists calorie counts July in New York City. In 2008. the Big Apple became the first city in the country to implement a law forcing chain restaurants to post the calorie count of each food next to the items on their menus. Yet the FDA has delayed similar posting rules for the rest of us again.

Restaurants and other retailers originally had until the end of 2015 to comply. Last summer, the FDA pushed that deadline back to the end of 2016. This month, they pushed the deadline back again. Passed as part of the health care overhaul in 2010, the rules will eventually require restaurants and other establishments that sell prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to post the calorie content of food “clearly and conspicuously” on their menus, menu boards and displays.

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.

A tradition content label on food.

A traditional content label on food.

Among others, grocery stores and convenience stores have claimed the rules would be more burdensome for them than they would be for restaurants, which typically have more limited offerings. Pizza chains have also opposed the rules, saying they don’t make sense for companies that take most of their orders online or over the phone.

The Center for Science and the Public Interest (cspinet.org), which was part of the original coalition and successfully pushed for prepared foods at supermarkets and other retailers successfully argued that those stores are selling many of the same foods for immediate consumption that restaurants do.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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