Kathleen Purvis

Are you ready to wait another year for calorie counts on menus?

Pizza Hut’s Hot Dog Bites Pepperoni Pizza.
Pizza Hut’s Hot Dog Bites Pepperoni Pizza.

OK, so forget about those calorie counts for a while.

The Food & Drug Administration has delayed its plan to have calorie counts added to menus of national restaurant chains by Nov. 1. Now, it won’t be required to happen until December 2016.

Even though public health officials were delighted – when I wrote about it in February, most called it the biggest step forward since nutrition labels were added to food packages in the early 1990s – some players in the food industry weren’t so happy.

One group has been fighting particularly hard. That would be the American Pizza Community, a group that represents pizza chains, including Domino’s, Papa John’s, Little Caesar Enterprises and the International Pizza Hut Franchise Holders Association.

Unfortunately, FDA proceeded with an approach to final rules that impose significant compliance costs without achieving any meaningful improvements in consumer education.

Lynn Liddle, chair of the American Pizza Community

When the FDA delayed the calorie rules, Lynn Liddle, APC chair and executive vice president of Domino’s, issued a statement: “Unfortunately, FDA proceeded with an approach to final rules that impose significant compliance costs without achieving any meaningful improvements in consumer education.”

Making sure you know that a single slice of Pizza Hut’s hot-dog stuffed crust pepperoni pizza, the one with a crust lined with hot dogs, has 340 calories apparently isn’t a meaningful improvement in your education.

(By the way, among calorie counts, that hot dog-stuffed pizza looks a bit wan. A single slice of Pizza Hut’s Pepperoni Lover’s pizza with cheese-stuffed crust runs 390 calories.)

What the pizza community wants is passage of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act. That would require that labeling rules only apply to companies that make more than 50 percent of their revenue from prepared food. That would leave out grocery stores, convenience stores, sports venues and theaters.

It wouldn’t leave out pizza-delivery companies. But APC says it’s trying to help small pizza restaurants avoid the expense of adding calories to menus. That’s odd, because the original FDA regulations only applied to food companies with more than 20 locations, not small restaurants.

Yes, adding calorie counts to menus is complicated. It involves training employees, redesigning menus and figuring out who has to comply and how.

Still, most of these calorie counts are already available. They’re on apps, such as My Fitness Pal, or on company websites. That’s how I know how many calories are in a slice of Hot Dog Bites Pepperoni Pizza.

Could it be that the APC’s interest here isn’t changing the FDA’s rules to be less difficult? Could it be that the actual aim is delay?

Waiting until 2016 means it will happen in an election year, as one administration leaves Washington and another arrives. And that might be an administration with less interest in health information.

Could it be that Domino’s is just happy to roll the dice?

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis

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