by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the guidance is “practical, efficient and sustainable,” in an attempt to alleviate concerns from pizza chains and grocers that the government was moving forward with an onerous Obama administration rule that carries criminal penalties for “misbranding” food.
Questions about the rule remain, since the guidance only contains “nonbinding recommendations.” In addition, chain restaurants could be confused by language in the guidance related to what draft beers must be labeled. The FDA says, “It depends.”
The regulation, which applies to chains of 20 or more stores, is set to take effect in May 2018. The Trump administration delayed the compliance date earlier this year to take into account concerns of companies and food associations that must comply. …
… Pizza chains represented by the American Pizza Community—including Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Little Caesars—raised the issue that pizza can contain up to a billion topping combinations, making the rule unworkable unless they can comply online. Domino’s has said the vast majority of their orders are already placed online, where customers can use a calorie tracker for any pizza they order.
The new FDA guidance does not allow pizza chains to comply online but attempts to provide more flexibility with allowing companies to use calorie ranges.
“[E]ven though you declare calories on your online menu, if you choose to use a menu board in your covered establishment you must provide calorie declarations for standard menu items listed on your menu board,” the FDA guidance states.
The FDA says pizza chains can implement a system using an “in-store tablet or electronic kiosk” to comply with the regulation, instead of posting calories on the main menu board for every topping offered.