The National Grocers Association (NGA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), as well as the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), are applauding introduction of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2017, a bipartisan bill that clarifies the FDA’s final rule regarding menu labeling at restaurants and similar retail food establishments, which includes grocery stores with 20 or more locations. The bill is sponsored by U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) and Tony Cardenas (D-California) in the House and Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) and Angus King (I-Maine) in the Senate.
The FDA finalized menu-labeling regulations at the direction of the Affordable Care Act in November of 2014. The regulations require that chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations list caloric information on their menus and menu boards. The regulation is set to go into effect on May 5.
Key provisions of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act:
• Protects local food items only sold at a few stores;
• Allows the use of a menu or menu board in a prepared foods area;
• Ensures advertisements, signs and other marketing materials are not regulated as “menus”;
• Allows use of a website or app as a means for compliance for ordered items, such as pre-ordered sandwiches, catering or delivery; and
• Secures enforcement and liability protections for good-faith compliance efforts and inadvertent human errors.
NGA says it has actively engaged with members of Congress and the FDA throughout the regulatory process to ensure a workable solution for supermarkets.
“Independent supermarket operators are committed to providing their customers with transparent information about the products they sell, however grocers continue to face challenges and uncertainty with implementing a regulation that was originally designed for chain restaurants. The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act provides the needed flexibility in how nutritional information is disclosed to customers based on the different ways that foods are prepared and sold across various supermarket venues and formats. Additionally, the bill protects store associates who make inadvertent mistakes and provides stores with 90 days to take corrective steps prior to any enforcement action,” said NGA President and CEO Peter J. Larkin. “NGA applauds Reps. McMorris Rodgers and Cardenas and Sens. Blunt and King for championing this important issue. We look forward to working with them and their colleagues in the House and Senate to advance this common sense legislative fix to an unworkable regulation.”
FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin added, “We applaud Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Tony Cardenas, Sens. Roy Blunt and Angus King, and their bipartisan co-sponsors for their continued commitment to addressing the problems supermarkets have been facing with a ‘square-peg-in-a-round-hole’ approach to FDA’s application of menu labeling in grocery stores. The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act is exactly what its title indicates: a sensible approach to providing nutrition transparency to customers while providing flexibility for supermarkets to successfully implement the requirements of the regulation. We commit our support to enacting this critical legislation as soon as possible and for actions to be taken so these modifications can be implemented prior to FDA’s moving forward with compliance enforcement.”
FMI says it seeks passage of this legislation because, despite the supermarket industry’s numerous meetings, conference calls and conversations with the agency at all levels over the last six years, FDA did not fix these problems in its final rule or its guidance, which has ultimately led to complications, confusion and delays.
NACS SVP of Government Relations Lyle Beckwith said, “It is critical that Congress and the new administration act quickly before the May 5 compliance deadline to provide for common-sense, simpler menu-labeling regulations that would ensure more nutritional information and choice for consumers—without exposing small businesses to burdensome costs and penalties and their employees to potential felony prosecution for accidentally putting too many pickles in a sandwich.”