US legislators present menu labelling alternative

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 25th July 2012

American congressmen have presented a ‘common sense’ alternative  to replace current US federal menu labelling laws. The proposed Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2012 comes in response to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulations regarding calorie labelling on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, food establishments and vending machines.

Congressmen John Carter, Henry Cuellar and Ruben Hinojosa proposed the bill with the support of representatives from the convenience store, grocery and pizza industries, as well as small business owners. A bipartisan mix of House members from Washington State, Arkansas, California, Wisconsin, Utah and Missouri, Georgia and Ohio have pledged support for the bill.

Under current FDA rules any chain with 20 or more locations, whose primary business is selling food, is required to display calorie counts on menus and menu bards for all prepared and packaged food for sale. Any business chain that has 50% or more floor space dedicated to selling food falls under the Act.

The FDA policy is a part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which calls for a national, uniform nutrition-disclosure standard for foodservice businesses.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D, said the regulations would play an important role in helping Americans make their food choices.

“One of the most important things we can do when it comes to the nation’s health is to provide simple basic information to the American people so they can make choices that are best for them and their family,” said Ms Hamburg.

The new Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act is intended to to introduce more straight-forward options for menu labelling, clearer delineation between business types and to remove the need for labelling of some pre-packaged foods in convenience stores.

The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) welcomed the proposed legislation. The 2011 NACS chairman, Jeff Miller, spoke at the conference introducing the bill.

“Convenience stores and their food offerings vary greatly — even those… that are part of the same chain — based largely on their location and customer base. This legislation provides retailers with the flexibility they need to communicate calorie nutrition information. More important, it sets realistic requirements for how businesses are classified under these regulations,” he said.

The new Act comes after months of opposition to the FDA’s menu labelling laws from the convenience store industry. In March 2012, the 2012 NACS Day on Capitol Hill was held, where hundreds of convenience store owners gathered to voice their concerns.