Like an unexpected May snow day giving students more time to finish their term papers, this week the Food and Drug Administration announced a last minute extension of the deadline requiring restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus. But since many of these restaurants have already done the work, you’ll see many of them posting these numbers anyway.
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We were talking about how you should “get ready” for calorie counts arriving on menus back in 2014. At that point, the FDA had just published its guidelines explaining how restaurant chains with at least 20 locations need to go about publically displaying certain nutrition information, fulfilling a requirement included as part of the Affordable Care Act back in 2010. Though the compliance can had been kicked the down the road a few different times, the most recent date for implementation was tomorrow, Friday, May 5, meaning most restaurants should have already done the time-intensive work of analyzing food and reprinting menus and signage. So when the FDA announced on Monday, just four days ahead of the deadline, that it would once again be extended for another year, some companies responded with little more than a shrug.
“The delay came too late, and we are moving forward with complying with the original effective date of this Friday as the research, training and printing was already completed,” Carlos Larcada, who operates a Krispy Kreme franchisee, told the Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile, a manager at grocer Jewel-Osco put an even more positive spin on its choice to go ahead with the changes. “It was a pretty quick decision. We decided it was the right thing to do," said Ken Cruikshank whose company would have been required to post calories at places like the deli and salad bar. He said that implementing this new policy despite the extension increased transparency which benefits consumers. “It certainly makes customers more knowledgeable… It allows them to make better decisions.”
Of course, plenty of major chains—including the two with the most locations Subway and McDonald’s—weren’t waiting around until the last minute to begin with: They’ve already fulfilled the requirements. Ultimately, since the current administration is far less interested in pushing federal regulations, it’s safe to think it may never implement these calorie posting requirements, at least as they are written now. In that case, the decision would be left up to restaurants anyway. Granted, if that came to pass, it wouldn’t necessarily tell us as much about the food we eat, but it would certainly tell us more about how different restaurant chains feel about transparency.