- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it will give chain restaurants an extra year to comply with an Obamacare rule requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts for the foods they sell.

Chains, grocery stores that sell prepared foods and other covered businesses had said they needed more time to redo their menu boards, retrain workers and update software systems.

“In light of these requests, we have decided to extend the compliance date for the final rule to December 1, 2016,” the agency said in regulatory papers.

Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said the agency will issue additional guidance in August to address some of the most common questions businesses have posed.

Already, congressional appropriators in both chambers had called for a one-year delay in agriculture bills for fiscal 2016.

But Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat who pushed for the labeling requirement, said she was “dismayed” by the FDA’s decision.

“Enough is enough. Industry is doing everything they can to stonewall implementation of this important public health tool,” she said. “It takes time to change signage, packaging, and data systems. I understand that. But ultimately we need to make sure consumers have nutrition information available to them when making purchasing decisions.”

Designed to inform Americans about what they’re putting into their bodies, the labeling rule posted last November applies to restaurants that operate 20 or more locations and offer food for eating on the premises or take-out.

Everything from sit-down restaurants to bakeries to pizza joints are covered by the new rule, as are alcoholic cocktails when they appear on menus. Food served at entertainment centers, such as movie theaters, also are covered.

Combination meals that are popular at fast-food restaurants must be displayed as a range, for example 450-700 calories, to give consumers a sense of how the components add up to a total calorie count.

Pizza joints, though, have complained that flexibility is needed in the menu rules because there are so many permutations of toppings that go on the pies.

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