After two delays, Obama-era rules requiring chain restaurants and grocery stores to post the calorie counts of prepared foods on menus and menu boards went into effect on May 7. The rules, part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, apply to chains with at least 20 stores. They’re intended to help consumers make healthier choices when dining out, but many in the food retailing industry have expressed concern over the impact the rules will have on their businesses.
“Independent supermarket operators are committed to providing their customers with transparency on the food products they sell and have been working hard to bring their operations in compliance with the FDA’s menu labeling regulations, but uncertainty with how to implement the regulation still exists,” said Greg Ferrara, NGA EVP of advocacy, public relations and member services. “A one-size-fits-all regulation that was originally designed for chain restaurants is unworkable and needs Congressional action to address the problems and burdens this law will place on independent grocers. NGA and its members look forward to working with stakeholders to find a commonsense solution that provides predictability and protects America’s Main Street grocers from frivolous lawsuits.”
“We are trying to make lemonade out of the lemons FDA presented—working to implement a law that was poorly designed for the businesses we represent and poses liability challenges at the state and local levels with regard to enforcement,” Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer and SVP, government relations at the Food Marketing Institute, said in a statement. “That said, our members have exerted an extraordinary effort in analyzing and labeling hundreds and in some cases, more than 1,000 items, thus enabling customers to identify more clearly the wide array of healthy options available in a grocery store.”
“Many in the industry have their own foodservice business or partner with other chains. A new uniform standard for the industry can be a positive development, but it must allow for sufficient flexibility to allow non-chain restaurants to comply,” says the National Association for Convenience Stores (NACS) on its website. “Otherwise, the FDA’s menu-labeling rule will subject many convenience stores to unnecessary and burdensome regulatory obligations.”
Earlier this year, the House 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) would have provides liability and enforcement protections for good-faith compliance efforts; allowed the use of a centrally located, prominent menu board for salad bars and other food displays; and preserved the offering of locally made and locally sourced foods, according to FMI. However, the Senate has not acted on the legislation.
Others in the food retailing industry, particularly those in foodservice—including the National Restaurant Association (NRA)—are applauding the bill as is.
In a statement today, Cicely Simpson, NRA EVP, said, “This is a welcome development for both the restaurant industry and consumers, and we are pleased that our efforts to preserve the May 7th compliance date were successful. By setting a clear standard, this rule provides the necessary guidance and expectations for America’s restaurants to follow in order to continue delivering a high-quality experience and customer service to everyone who walks through our doors, as well as the transparency our customers demand. We applaud Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and the Trump Administration for working with the National Restaurant Association to push this policy across the finish line.”