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Food chains given an extra year to put calorie counts on menus

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Minnesota diners will have to wait an extra year before they can see how many calories they consume when eating out at chain restaurants or buying popcorn at the movies.

The Food and Drug Administration had previously announced that all restaurants or movie theaters with more than 20 locations would have to display calorie counts on its food and drinks menus as of Dec. 1 this year, the Associated Press notes.

But after objections and feedback from the industry, the FDA announced Thursday it will give companies an extra year to comply with the new regulations, which will now come in on Dec. 1, 2016, according to this FDA decision notice.

Dan McElroy, president for Hospitality Minnesota, told BringMeTheNews that state eateries will welcome the delay, even though some will be ready to implement it before December 2016.

"The reaction I heard from our members is that it will be useful to have more time to comply with these new rules." he said.

"Some members may be ready to add nutrition information to their menus prior to the extended deadline but they now have options. We are looking forward to hearing from the FDA as to the needed clarifications that were the reason for the delay."

Which businesses will have to post calorie counts?

It is not only restaurant, fast-food and movie theater chains that will have to post calorie counts.

Supermarkets and convenience stores with more than 20 locations that sell prepared foods will have to display them too, as will food prepared and sold at big box stores such as Target, Costco and Walmart, and food sold at coffee chains like Starbucks.

The Wall Street Journal said some of the objections to the ruling coming into force this year include those representing pizza chains and grocery stores, who said it was "impractical and prohibitively expensive" that they were being treated the same as sit-down restaurants.

Pizza chain Domino's was also among the objectors, the newspaper notes, saying that its wide variety of toppings and combinations made displaying calorie counts on its menus and menu boards impractical.

In its decision, the FDA said it was extending the deadline to clarify some issues surrounding how restaurants have to report calorie counts, as well as giving businesses more time to train staff, develop software that will help them provide nutritional information, and develop and install updated menu boards across its restaurants.

With one-third of the calories consumed by Americans done so away from home, the FDA hopes calorie listings will have health benefits by highlighting to diners how much they are consuming.

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