The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has officially delayed enforcement of new menu labeling rules, after Congress included a delay in a spending bill in December.

In a statement on Wednesday, Dr. Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said that the agency would delay enforcement until one year after it issues its final guidance on the rules. 

It is uncertain when that guidance will be issued, though an agency spokeswoman said Thursday that it’s expected to be published sometime this year.

The rule, which requires restaurants, grocery store delis and convenience stores that sell prepared food to publish calorie counts on menus, was set to be enforced on Dec. 1, 2016.

But Congress axed that date in a spending bill passed in December, and gave no date for enforcement. 

The FDA’s announcement brings at least some certainty to the often-delayed rules over menu labeling.

The law has the backing of the restaurant industry, which had pushed for a federal menu labeling standard as opposed to a smorgasbord of laws in states and localities across the country. The federal law also includes retailers that sell prepared food, which compete directly with restaurateurs.

The law had initially been passed in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act. But the rules, the required guidance and the enforcement have been delayed several times over the years.

The rules were published in 2014, but the agency also must publish formalized guidance that helps show companies how to comply with the law.

The rules could also get a Congressional-driven change. The House in February approved a bill that would give restaurants and grocers more flexibility in how they label the calorie counts on menus, while also enabling to-go restaurants like pizza chains the ability to post calories on smartphone apps.

That bill, which has yet to pass the Senate and get a presidential signature, also includes some lawsuit protections and provides flexibility for posting the calories of customized options.

Contact Jonathan Maze at jonathan.maze@penton.com
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Clarification: March 11, 2016 This article has been changed to clarify that the FDA will release guidance on the menu labeling rules, but the timing of the action is uncertain.