With Compliance Date Looming, House Passes Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2017 (H.R. 772) with a bipartisan vote of 266 to 157, according to media reports.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to begin enforcement of the existing menu labeling requirements on May 7.

Introduced by Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash. 5) and Tony Cardenas (D-Calif. 29), the legislation would provide more flexibility in how convenience stores and other retailers comply with the menu labeling regulations, which require calorie counts and other information.

If signed into law, the bill would show more lenciency on calorie information, considering it to be reasonably accurate as long as discrepancies are "including but not limited to variations in serving size, inadvertent human error in formulation or preparation of menu items, variations in ingredients, or other reasonable variations," said McMorris Rodgers. 

"The FDA's one-size-fits-all approach places additional burdens on the backs of our nation's small business owners without giving them the flexibility they need to actually comply with the regulations," she added.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), an opponent of the bill, called it an attempt to "upend disclosure by letting restaurants invent misleading serving sizes, hide calories in hard-to-find places inside supermarkets and convenience stores, and remove calories from inside pizza chains," said Margo Wootan, vice president for Nutrition.

CSPI also argued that the FDA intends to focus on technical assistance and education instead of enforcement at the start of implementation.

NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, applauded the bill's passage.

"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 with to insurmountable barriers to compliance, crippling costs and potential criminal penalties for innocent mistakes," said Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president of government relations.

"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," Beckwith added. "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."

In the Senate, a similar bill is currently in committee, but has not yet scheduled a vote.