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House Passes Bill Intended To Clarify Menu Labeling Rules

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Last updated on February 8th, 2018 at 03:33 pm

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bipartisan bill, introduced by Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Tony Cardenas (D-CA), intended to clarify the FDA’s final rule on menu labeling to create flexibility for grocers to comply.

The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 772) provides liability and enforcement protections for good-faith compliance efforts; allows the use of a centrally located, prominent menu board for salad bars and other food displays; and preserves the offering of locally made and locally sourced foods, notes The Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

“This strong bipartisan effort demonstrates both Congress’ and food retailers’ interest in providing standardized nutrition information to customers without constant worries about fines and penalties for a slight error,” said Jennifer Hatcher, FMI chief public policy officer.  “We appreciate the work Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Tony Cardenas have put into finding a commonsense solution.

“Food retailers go to great lengths to provide their customers with the nutritional information they desire, including employing dietitians in nearly 90 percent of supermarkets. This legislation gets rid of the ’gotcha state’ and allows food retailers to provide meaningful nutrition information to their customers without the fear of penalties of fines for simple errors.”

Other industry organizations also are applauding the bill’s passage.

“This bill provides a commonsense solution to a burdensome regulation that was applied as a one-size-fits-all approach to vastly different industries,” said Peter Larkin, president and CEO of the National Grocers Association. “Independent supermarket operators are committed to providing their customers with accurate nutritional information but need the flexibility to implement the rule across a multitude of store formats, all of which operate much differently than a chain restaurant.”

Lyle Beckwith, SVP of government relations at the National Association of Convenience Stores, also released a statement in support of the bill yesterday: 

“In passing the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (CSNDA) today, the U.S. House of Representatives has reached a critical milestone toward the shared goals of providing consumers the information they need to make wise nutritional choices—without burdening them with higher prices and reduced choices, or exposing small businesses and their employees to insurmountable barriers to compliance, crippling costs and potential criminal penalties for innocent mistakes.

“The CSNDA represents a practical approach to implementing a national, uniform nutrition-disclosure standard for food service establishments. A study commissioned by NACS shows that, without this legislation, not only would the cost of compliance with proposed FDA rules far outrun the $1 billion over 10 years estimated by the agency, the regulations would be nearly impossible for small businesses to comply with due to their lack of clarity and inflexibility.

“In contrast to the FDA regulations, which applied a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that did not take into account the differences in approach to food service between big-chain restaurants and convenience stores, grocery stores and delivery operations, the CSNDA will set a national standard for disclosure while providing these businesses the flexibility to provide nutritional information in ways that fit their diverse business and service models.

“With the May 7 compliance deadline looming for regulations promulgated by the FDA, we now urge the U.S. Senate to expeditiously take and enact this legislation.”

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 currently set to go into effect on May 7, 2018.  

A companion bill (S. 261) has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (I-ME).

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