Home » NACS, Food Groups Praise Senate Efforts To Amend Menu Labeling Legislation

NACS, Food Groups Praise Senate Efforts To Amend Menu Labeling Legislation

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Last updated on June 13th, 2024 at 05:13 pm

The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), along with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the National Grocers Association (NGA), hailed legislation introduced last week in the U.S. Senate, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act.

According to the groups, the FDA’s current rules, set to take effect Dec. 1, 2016, do not recognize how convenience stores, grocery stores, delivery operations and other approaches to food service are different than restaurants. The bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) and Angus King (I-Maine) codifies a less burdensome approach to menu labeling. For those convenience stores that would be covered by federal menu labeling requirements, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act provides more flexibility with compliance.

The Senate bill maintains but modifies FDA’s menu-labeling regulations to provide nutritional information to customers in a more practical format, and to protect small businesses from overly burdensome costs and penalties. The legislation also removes the potential for criminal penalties if a store or restaurant gives some customers larger servings than they expected.

“Convenience stores and their food service offerings vary greatly—even those that are part of the same chain—based largely on their location and customer base. S. 2217 provides retailers with the flexibility they need to communicate calorie nutrition information, and provides needed protections from unnecessary potential felony penalties on retail employees,” said Lyle Beckwith, SVP of government relations at NACS. “This legislation would also allow FDA to meet the objectives of the menu labeling law without unnecessarily burdening retailers and confusing customers.”

Specifically, the Senate legislation would modify the FDA’s menu labeling regulations by:

• Clarifying that the menu labeling law is intended for “standard menu items,” defined as those items prepared with uniformity and routinely included on a menu or menu board at 20 or more locations; not a food item that is sold at one or two stores;

• Allowing for supermarkets to use a menu or menu board in a prepared foods area or next to a salad bar rather than individually labeling every item;

• Allowing an establishment to take corrective actions within 90 days prior to federal, state or municipal enforcement and protecting against frivolous class-actions; and

• Providing flexibility within “reasonable basis” standards, in-store certifications, remote-ordering, multi-serving and variable items.

Reacting to the Senate legislation, NGA President and CEO Peter J. Larkin offered the perspective of the independent supermarket operator.

“Unfortunately, the FDA’s regulations and recent guidance continue to present challenges for independent supermarket operators covered under the law,” he said. “Unlike chain restaurants, supermarkets do not have standardized menus and as such, a law, which was originally intended for chain restaurants, creates significant operational challenges for supermarkets. This bipartisan legislation will help make it easier for supermarkets to comply with the law while continuing to provide consumers with highest quality food products and services. Additionally, this legislation will protect front line employees and stores from criminal penalties for simple, human error and shield businesses from frivolous lawsuits. NGA and its members look forward to working with Sens. Blunt and King to advance this important legislation.”

FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin said, “This legislation is not about being ‘for’ or ‘against’ the inclusion of nutrition information on menus. If FDA wants ‘menu labeling’ at grocery stores, then let’s at least build some flexibility so it is worthwhile for consumers and workable in store environments. We have made every attempt to work with FDA throughout the past year, as we clearly need modifications to make this regulatory scheme work in a supermarket. With these legislative modifications, our food retailer and wholesaler members can more effectively integrate menu labeling into their current operations.”

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Shelby Team

The Shelby Report delivers complete grocery news and supermarket insights nationwide through the distribution of five monthly regional print and digital editions. Serving the retail food trade since 1967, The Shelby Report is “Region Wise. Nationwide.”

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