Yesterday when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent out its Clarified Statement on Compliance Date, regarding the activation on Dec. 1 of the new menu labeling regulations for restaurants, I know it triggered a lot of concern across the industry.
In fact, since Donald Trump was declared the president-elect after the national vote on Nov. 8, the status of menu labeling has been top-of-mind for many, including me. This is because menu labeling legislation rests inside the stipulations connected with the Affordable Care Act, which some call “Obamacare,” and its no secret that Mr. Trump intends to repeal that huge piece of legislation.
Nonetheless, this latest FDA communication, albeit a bit confusing, is the organization's way of letting everyone in dood service know that, in fact, nothing has changed regarding the menu labeling stipulations that are set to go into effect Dec. 1.
That means that not only does the regulation take effect this Thursday, but all restaurants still must expect they will need to be in compliance with the new requirements as of May 5, 2017, when enforcement begins in earnest.
The statement the FDA released yesterday indicates that the agency does not intend to prevent the regulations from moving forward. Likewise, I continue to believe that a federal mandate on menu labeling is a winning move for the restaurant industry because if these federal regulations are defeated, the industry returns to the convoluted mix of city, state and regional laws that often differ depending on zip code.
As a result, chains that may have, for instance, more than 20 locations, including one in Philadelphia and another in King County, Washington, must not only educate each restaurant's employees on the varying rules, but make changes to each location's menu to remain in compliance with the law specific to that location.
Such variations are insanely confusing and provide no uniform guidance to food service operators about a piece of communication that customers are increasingly interested in reading. So with the enforcement date of May 5, 2017, we have a game plan and relatively clear guidelines on compliance chain-wide and industry-wide.