Federal Lawmakers Launch New Menu-Labeling Action

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. lawmakers have introduced legislation to shield small businesses from regulatory burdens of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) final menu-labeling regulations.

The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act was reintroduced by U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) and U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Angus King (I-Maine).

The new legislation is intended to provide a more practical and flexible approach to the current regulations, which the FDA plans to begin enforcing on May 5, reported NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

"We need some common-sense relief to the FDA's menu-labeling requirements so that it is reasonable and achievable for local convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants, and others that sell food," Blunt said. "Small businesses are already having to spend money trying to comply with difficult and unworkable regulations. I am pleased to introduce this bill that recognizes the importance of menu labeling, but more importantly recognizes that there needs to be flexibility for businesses so they can provide important nutritional information to customers in the most useful way."

McMorris-Rodgers criticized the FDA's one-size-fits-all approach to the requirement that foodservice outlets provide nutritional information.

"How businesses provide that information should be consistent with how their customers actually place orders — including by phone, online or through mobile apps," she said. "By bringing this rule into the 21st century, we can provide relief to our job creators and preserve important nutritional information for American families at the same time."

NACS has called for rapid action by Congress and the new administration as the compliance deadline draws near.

"It is critical that Congress and the new administration act quickly before the May 5 compliance deadline to provide for common-sense, simpler menu-labeling regulations that would ensure more nutritional information and choice for consumers — without exposing small businesses to burdensome costs and penalties and their employees to potential felony prosecution for accidentally putting too many pickles in a sandwich," said Lyle Beckwith, NACS senior vice president of government relations.

The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act maintains but modifies the FDA's menu-labeling regulations, allowing businesses to provide nutritional information to customers in a more practical format, NACS said. It also protects small businesses from "overly burdensome" costs and penalties, and removes the possibility of criminal penalties.

The American Pizza Community (APC), a coalition of large and small pizza companies, franchisees, suppliers and thousands of employees that make up the pizza industry, released a statement endorsing the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act.

"Pizza store owners and operators continue to support the intent behind menu-labeling laws and we're happy that Congress is taking action to make these regulations workable for small business owners," said Tim McIntyre, APC chair and executive vice president of communication, investor relations, and legislative affairs for Domino's Pizza. "This is not about whether to disclose calorie counts. It's about doing it in a way that makes sense."

McIntyre noted that many pizza stores have provided nutritional information for years. According to the APC, there are 34 million different ways to order a pizza, and with so many customers choosing delivery and pick-up and customers ordering online or by telephone, the requirement to label in-store menu boards with broad calorie ranges for entire pizzas is inflexible, will not enhance consumer education and would come at great expense to owners.

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