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FDA issues final menu labeling guidance

The FDA Friday released a final guidance document on menu labeling to clarify portions of the rule and answer specific questions related to the requirements.

For example, the document confirms that items like loaves of bread and dinner rolls sold from a grocery store bulk bin would not be covered by the menu labeling rule because they are meant to be eaten over several eating occasions or stored for later.

The guidance also states that “grab and go” supermarket products can include calorie information on the package to satisfy labeling requirements.

Last month, FDA again postponed the compliance date for menu labeling from Dec. 16, 2016, to one year after the final guidance was issued. The agency said Friday it would begin enforcing the rule one year from the date the guidance is published in the Federal Register, which is expected to be in early May.

Industry groups such as FMI and NGA continue to advocate for changes to menu labeling requirements that they say don’t make sense for supermarkets.

“The guidance is largely a reprint of the draft guidance the agency released in September 2015 and did not incorporate the critical flexibility requested by the supermarket industry to make chain restaurant menu labeling regulations more practical in a grocery store setting for key areas, including signage at the salad bar or hot foods bar," FMI president and CEO Leslie Sarasin said in a statement.

“While we are pleased to have any type of guidance to assist with our challenging efforts to comply with a rule and a structure written for chain restaurants — as opposed to one that contemplates the operations of supermarkets with large and varied produce departments evolving to salad bars or seafood departments evolving to hot foods bars — the supermarket industry still seeks flexibility from FDA. Specifically, food retailers wish to preserve their opportunity to sell locally produced foods that are sold at only one or two locations as well as their ability to use one sign/menu/menu board in a prepared foods area or next to a salad bar."

Read the full guidance document (PDF) on the FDA website.

This article has been updated to include comments from FMI.

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