King Calls on FDA to Simplify Requirements for Menu Labels for Businesses and Grocers

 In response to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposals that would update nutrition labeling, U.S. Senator King (I-Maine) encouraged the agency to examine menu-labeling requirements for small business and grocers:

 “Updating labeling requirements for food packages and other consumer products is long overdue. The FDA’s proposal today is a welcome step in the effort to modernize labels, and I look forward to reviewing the details,” Senator King said. “But more work needs to be done. For example, the Affordable Care Act’s one-size-fits-all menu-labeling standard simply doesn’t work for many restaurants and grocery stores. As FDA finalizes menu-labeling rules for large restaurant chains and other, similar food providers, I urge them to look closely at adopting a scale-appropriate approach.”

 Senators King and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) last year introduced the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2013, which would codify a less burdensome approach to menu-labeling by allowing covered establishments greater flexibility in providing calorie information. Specifically, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2013 would limit the scope of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement a chain restaurant menu labeling provision mandated by the new healthcare law.

 Signed into law in March 2010, the Affordable Care Act includes a provision that calls for a national, uniform nutrition-disclosure standard for foodservice establishments, originally intended for restaurants. Regulations implementing this provision released in 2011 by the FDA, however, also unexpectedly incorporated grocery and convenience stores. In addition, the proposed rule created rigid requirements that pose an unreasonable burden on some businesses by requiring them to provide calorie information for whole menu items, irrespective of the number of servings in the product delivered to customers. For example, pizza establishments would have to label their pizzas per whole pie rather than per slice. Additionally, many small grocery and convenience stores, including many across Maine, offer food bars that would be impacted by the proposed rule.

 FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg noted that the ACA-mandated rule is proving to be difficult to implement. “Little did I know how complicated it would be,” she said during an event sponsored by Bloomberg Government last year.

 “Should a movie theater that has a full menu and has all kinds of foodstuff be included in menu labeling?” she asked, according to an article in The Hill. “Or what about a pizza place that doesn’t allow patrons to dine in and only delivers?”

 “It’s important to provide consumers with the information they need to make healthy choices, but we must not heap unnecessary regulations on food providers if we don’t have to,” said King.