The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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April 29, 2014

Where will calorie labels appear next? Not just menus

WASHINGTON — Diners could soon see calorie counts on the menus of chain restaurants.

But will they be able to get that same clear information at grocery stores, convenience stores, movie theaters or airplanes?

The food industry is closely watching the Food and Drug Administration to see which establishments are included in the final menu labeling rules, which are expected this year.

The idea is that people may pass on that bacon double cheeseburger if they know that it has 1,000 calories. Or on the chili hot dog at the convenience store counter.

But nonrestaurant establishments have lobbied hard for exemption, and the rules have been delayed.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told Congress earlier this month that writing the rules has been “much more challenging than expected.” The agency issued proposed rules in 2011 but has faced pressure to revise them to exclude retail outlets like grocery and convenience stores.

The FDA has sent the rules to the White House, meaning they could be released soon. The calorie labels may be required as soon as six months after the final rules are announced.

Five places you may — or may not — see calorie labels once the rules kick in:

RESTAURANTS

The restaurant industry pushed for menu labeling and helped it become law as part of health overhaul in 2010. Chain restaurants that operate all over the country wanted the federal standards because of an evolving patchwork of state and local laws that require calorie labeling and could have forced those outlets to follow different rules in different locations.

Not all restaurants are happy with menu labeling, though. Pizza restaurants, led by delivery giant Domino’s, say it doesn’t make sense to force their franchisees to order expensive new menu boards when few people walk into their brick-and-mortar outlets. They argue for putting the information online. The pizza companies say there are more than 34 million ways to order a pizza, and they need more flexibility on labeling than other restaurants. Supporters of the rules say pizzas are no different from sandwiches or other foods that have a variety of toppings.

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