FDA Delays Calorie Labeling Rule Until Next Year

May 2, 2017
Originally published on May 2, 2017 7:19 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

You want to know how many calories are in that pizza you crushed last night? Well, you got to wait. The Food and Drug Administration is delaying implementing a rule requiring retailers to post calorie counts. Here's NPR's Allison Aubrey.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: At many chain restaurants, it's become easier to know just how many calories come with your order. The mandate to post calorie counts was written into the Affordable Care Act back in 2010. And several years back, chains including McDonald's and Panera Bread began to display calories on menus or menu boards. And in coffee shops, calories are often posted right on the pastry shelf.

MARGO WOOTAN: Seven hundred and forty calories in this pecan roll.

AUBREY: For a pecan roll? That is a calorie bomb there, right?

I caught up with Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest at a local cafe. She's an advocate of calorie labeling because she says it makes people more aware of what's in a pastry like this.

WOOTAN: It's more than the calories in a Big Mac. That might be why we see a lot of them still sitting here. People look at that, and they go whoa.

AUBREY: Wootan says studies show that calorie labeling can affect people's choices, and the food industry has taken notice.

WOOTAN: A lot of times even the restaurants didn't realize how many calories were in many of their items.

AUBREY: She says some restaurant chains have added more low-calorie options.

WOOTAN: Looking at before to after menu labeling, we've seen a significant decrease in the calories of the pastries at Starbucks.

AUBREY: She also points to Cosi and Maggiano's as examples of chains that have reworked menu items from salads to entrees to lighten them up, but not all food retailers have gotten onboard.

DOUG KANTOR: These regulations have been overly constrictive and very difficult to comply with.

AUBREY: That's attorney Doug Kantor. Last month, he petitioned the FDA on behalf of the National Association of Convenience Stores and the National Grocers Association asking the agency to reconsider the rule. Convenience store chains such as 7-Eleven and grocery stores sell a lot of prepared foods, everything from deli sandwiches and pizzas to prepared entrees and a la carte food bars.

Kantor says unlike restaurants that serve a set menu, it's a challenge to nail down calories in these self-serve venues where portions and offerings vary. He argues the regulations don't give them a way to comply.

KANTOR: They can't tell us how to deal with the normal variation in food sizes and calorie amounts.

AUBREY: Late yesterday, the FDA announced it will delay implementation of the calorie posting rule until May of next year. In a statement, Tom Price, Trump's secretary of Health and Human Services, said the FDA will also ask for feedback about how to make the menu labeling rule more flexible and less burdensome while still providing useful information to consumers. Allison Aubrey, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.