* FDA plans to delay enforcement of new menu rules
* Calories, other details required on menus
* Vending machines must also carry nutrition information
(Adds details on requirements, comment from industry and CSPI)
WASHINGTON, Aug 24 U.S. health regulators plan
to give restaurant companies more time to comply with new rules
that require clear calorie and nutritional information on
Under the healthcare law passed in March, restaurants must
clearly post calories and other nutrition details on their
menus. The rules target restaurants with 20 or more locations,
as well as other retail food outlets, and would affect huge
national chains like McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) and Yum Brands Inc
(YUM.N), the operator of the KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has until March 2011
to put these rules into effect. But the agency said on Tuesday
it would hold off on enforcing them for an unspecified time
period so that companies could make the changes. It also asked
for public comment on how long to refrain from enforcement.
Other companies likely to be affected by the new menu rules
include Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O), Olive Garden and Red Lobster
owner Darden Restaurants Inc (DRI.N), and IHOP and Applebee's
parent DineEquity Inc <DIN.N.
Consumer advocates and some public health experts praise
menu disclosures as a way to help diners make better food
choices and, hopefully, to help improve health in a nation
where two out of three people are overweight or obese.
"It's going to help a lot of people watch their waistlines
and calories," said Margo Wootan, a director of nutrition
policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Some industry critics have argued that menu labeling rules
-- particularly if they were to involve a patchwork of
different state and local laws -- would be a burden that would
add operating costs.
Dan Roehl, public affairs specialist for the National
Restaurant Association, which often takes the lead on
regulatory issues, said the industry supports a national
standard for disclosing nutrition information.
"Once FDA completes the regulatory process, the industry
will have all it needs to comply with the federal law ... It's
important for our members to know what they need to do," Roehl
Privately-held Subway for years has prominently displayed
calorie counts in its restaurants. The sandwich chain also
suggests ways for customers to reduce calories by eliminating
richer ingredients like cheese and mayonnaise.
Panera Bread Co (PNRA.O) in March began adding calorie
counts to its menu boards ahead of the national requirements.
Nevertheless, most major chains have resisted posting such
information without legislation and the threat of fines.
Several states, counties and cities have proposed or passed
laws requiring menu labeling, but only a handful -- including
New York City -- have put them into effect.
The FDA posted the draft guidelines on its website here
(Reporting by Susan Heavey, additional reporting by Lisa
Baertlein; editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Bernard Orr)