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Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act Back in Play

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Food retailer associations, including NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) are throwing their support behind the recently introduced Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015.

"The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) is a thoughtful, well-crafted approach to requiring convenience stores and other retail food establishments to provide nutrition information to their customers," NACS said. 

A bipartisan group of lawmakers held a press conference Tuesday to tout the measure. The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act was first introduced in the U.S. Senate in November 2013.

According to NACS, the legislation is designed to address concerns that food retailers have with the final menu labeling regulations issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year.

The legislation was developed "in such a bipartisan manner," Sanchez said. "You don't see a lot of that going on in the [U.S.] Congress today, but this is something that Cathy [McMorris Rodgers] and I definitely agree on."

In November, the FDA issued its final menu labeling rule. The final version requires caloric information to be listed on menus and menuboards in chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations to provide consumers with more nutritional information about the foods they eat outside the home.

According to NACS, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015 clarifies that menu-labeling regulations are intended for standard menu items, defined as those items with substantially the same recipe, prepared in substantially the same way, with substantially the same food components that are routinely included on a menu or menuboard, or are routinely offered as a self-service food or food on display at 20 or more locations.

The measure also extends the effective date of menu-labeling requirements to two years after the final rules implementing the bill are issued.

"Grocery stores want to provide customers with nutrition information and have done so for a very long time. The lack of time, guidance, and flexibility by FDA compels us to seek the legislative process to address these critical, outstanding issues to minimize the significant economic impact and customer confusion this rule has created," FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin wrote to Rodgers and Sanchez.

According to NACS, the legislation would:

  • Require covered establishments to only identify one menu in the store to include calorie information.
  • Clarify that advertisements and posters do not need to be labeled.
  • Provide flexibility in disclosing the caloric content for variable menu items that come in different flavors or varieties, and for combination meals.
  • Ensure that retailers acting in good faith are not penalized for inadvertent errors in complying with the rule.
  • Stipulate that individual store locations are not required to have an employee "certify" that the establishment has taken reasonable steps to comply with the menu labeling requirements.
  • Provide stores 90 days to correct any alleged violation without facing enforcement action.
  • Delay the date by which retailers must comply with the regulations for at least two to three years.

The legislation has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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