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New Menu Labeling Legislation Lauded by NACS

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, applauded the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 1249), new bipartisan legislation introduced yesterday by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) The act is a thoughtful approach to providing the necessary flexibility and understanding of foodservice operations at convenience stores, according to NACS.

The proposed legislation would amend a portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which calls for a national, uniform, nutrition-disclosure standard for foodservice establishments. Regulations first released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011 would require chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments, along with vending machines, with 20 or more locations to provide specific nutritional information such as calorie counts on menus, menu boards and drive-thru boards. Self-service foodservice stations would have to post caloric counts adjacent to items, and retailers would be obligated to provide additional nutritional information on request.

If passed, McMorris Rodgers' act would ease requirements for convenience stores, supermarkets and movie theatres.

"Under FDA's proposal, if more than 50 percent of a store's floor space is devoted to selling food — including pre-packaged food — that store must comply with the same menu labeling obligations as restaurants," NACS President and CEO Hank Armour said during a Capitol Hill press conference. "This is flawed for two reasons. First, revenue — not floor space — is how the government should measure a business' primary activity. Floor space is an ambiguous standard that is prone to manipulation and ambiguity, the opposite characteristics of sound regulations. Second, pre-packaged food — which already contains nutritional information — should not be a part of this equation."

Instead, Armour said the rules should apply only to food prepared on-site and intended for immediate consumption. "This only makes sense, because these are the products that the menu labeling regulations target," he added.

Multiple trade groups, including NACS, support the new legislation, which would direct the FDA to implement a restaurant menu-labeling provision consistent with Congress' intention to provide a uniform standard for chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, preempting the various state and local menu labeling laws.

"The bill introduced today would codify a less burdensome approach to menu labeling by limiting the provision to food retailers that derive 50 percent or more of their total revenue from the sale of food. Pre-packaged food would not be considered in this equation," said Armour.

Most c-stores would be exempt under the new legislation, as 17 percent of their in-store revenue dollars was derived from pre-packaged food according to NACS' 2011 State of the Industry data.

The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act would satisfy the original objectives of the PPACA without unnecessarily burdening most c-stores, stated NACS Chairman Dave Carpenter, president and CEO of J.D. Carpenter Cos. Inc. "It provides much-needed flexibility and recognizes that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work in a channel like ours with such diverse food offerings — let alone other retail channels," he concluded.

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