House passes scale-back of Obama-era menu calorie count rules

Story highlights

  • Current compliance deadline is May 7 for rule set in 2012
  • Expert: "Without this information, consumers underestimate calories in food"

(CNN)The way restaurants and other food establishments in the United States label calorie counts on their menus could look different starting this spring, and while some politicians and industry groups are applauding this potential change, some public health experts are raising concerns.

Currently, under the Affordable Care Act, food establishments have until May 7 to comply with requirements to add calorie information labels to the food items they serve and offer, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.
Those requirements apply to chain restaurants or food establishments that have 20 or more locations and vending machine operators who own or operate 20 or more machines.
    On Tuesday, the House passed legislation that would amend exactly how those restaurants and retail food businesses are to provide the calorie count information to their customers.
    Instead of listing the total calories contained in a menu item when it is offered for sale, such as a shared appetizer, businesses would be allowed to provide just the calories per serving in that "multiserving" menu item, without disclosing total calories.
    The legislation would also allow certain businesses, such as carry-out restaurants whose majority of customers order meals off-premises, to post such information on the internet as the sole method of disclosure instead of on the premises of the business.
    If a restaurant or food establishment violates any part of the legislation, the bill would allow 90 days for the business to correct the violation.
    Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers introduced the legislation, called the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act.
    "This bill, at its very core, is about flexibility. Flexibility for businesses to meet the requirements of the rule and present this calorie information in a way that makes sense for them and their customers," the Republican who represents eastern Washington said on the House floor Tuesday.
    "This legislation provides flexibility in how restaurants provide the nutritional information. It makes it easier for customers to actually see and understand the information because it's displayed where customers actually place orders, including by phone, online or through mobile apps," she said. "By bringing this rule into the 21st century, customers can trust that they're getting reliable information in a way that is easy to access and is customer-user friendly."