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Calorie counts still come to some menus, despite rule delay

  • FILE - In this June 17, 2013 file photo, a menu board showing calorie counts hangs at a Starbucks in New York. More than half of Americans say they feel like they already have enough information at restaurants to decide whether they are making a healthy purchase. But they want even more. According to an Associated Press-GfK poll conducted in December, the majority of Americans favor labeling calories on menus in fast food and sit down restaurants. Those polled said they care about counting calories, but they care even more about sugar and fat. (AP Photo/Candice Choi, File)
  • FILE - In this July 18, 2008 file photo, calories of each food item appear on a McDonalds drive-thru menu in New York. The Food and Drug Administration announced long-delayed calorie labeling rules Tuesday, requiring establishments that sell prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to post the calorie content of food “clearly and conspicuously” on their menus, menu boards and displays. Companies will have until November 2015 to comply. (AP Photo/Ed Ou, File)
  • The Obama administration could launch a new era of food regulation, some say. Here, a calorie count on a Taco Bell menu in New York, which requires the posting of calories. Illustrates FOOD-REGULATION (category f) by Jerry Hirsch (c) 2008, Los Angeles Times. Moved Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008. (MUST CREDIT: Los Angeles Times photo by Carolyn Cole.)

NEW YORK — Calorie counts are popping up on some restaurant menus and for prepared foods at supermarkets, whether you want to see them or not.

A federal regulation requiring food sellers to post the nutrition numbers by Friday was postponed again this week until next year, after years of delays amid opposition from pizza chains, convenience stores and grocers. But many chains had been scrambling to comply, and say they don’t plan to alter course right now.

“We were running hard toward the Friday deadline,” Kroger spokesman Keith Dailey said in an email.

Kroger Co., which operates chains including Ralph’s and Fry’s, said it plans to be “mostly” compliant by this week. Albertsons, which owns Safeway and Vons, said shoppers will find calorie counts for prepared foods such as cut fruit, salads and muffins. At Whole Foods in New York this week, calorie counts were posted on most hot food and salad bar items, and the chain said it’s still committed to this week’s deadline.

An Indian chicken dish at its hot food bar was listed at 130 calories for a 3-ounce serving, and a rice dish was listed at 120 calories per 4-ounce serving. The signs didn’t indicate what those serving sizes look like. In the prepared food section, a Mediterranean turkey meatball had 730 calories and a regular meatball in red sauce had 520.

While New York City and some other places already require restaurant chains to post calorie counts, the federal rule would make the numbers more widely available and require places like supermarkets and convenience stores to do so as well. It applies to chains with 20 or more locations, and was initially passed in 2010 as part of former President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The National Restaurant Association supports the standard because it wants to avoid dealing with a patchwork of local laws, and because it includes other establishments that serve food.

“The convenience and grocery chains see it as a competitive advantage if we have (calorie information up) and they don’t,” said Dunkin’ Brands CEO Nigel Travis. The company’s chains, Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins, began posting calories nationally last year.

Supermarkets and convenience stores say their offerings are far more complicated than traditional restaurants.

Pizza chain Domino’s has also been a vocal opponent and says it should be able to disclose the information online since most orders are not placed in stores.

The delay could give the National Association of Convenience Stores time to push for the option of posting calories in a centralized location, rather than right by food and drinks. A sign with calorie information right by the self-serve coffee would be impractical, said Doug Kantor, a lawyer for the group.

“Every day, somebody’s going to knock over the sign, or someone’s going to spill coffee on it,” Kantor said.

The trade group says many convenience stores don’t want to roll out the information until they’re certain the rule is final. The National Grocers Association said many of its members are trying to adhere to the rule but are still confused about certain aspects of ensuring they’re compliant.