House Committee Approves Menu-Labeling Legislation

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Nov. 18 voted 36 to 12 in favor of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 2017).

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Wash.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), now moves to the House floor for a full vote.

The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act would require FDA to revise its current menu-labeling rules, which are set to take effect December 2016, to make it easier for food retailers and restaurant operators to comply while also revising the enforcement and liability rules to eliminate excessive and disproportionate penalties. Similar legislation was introduced recently in the Senate by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Angus King (I-Maine).

NATSO members offer a wide variety of food options, from sit-down and quick-service restaurants to grab-and-go options at a travel store or convenience store. The FDA's original menu-labeling rule was designed for chain restaurants, and presents a number of complexities for travel stores and convenience stores that sell prepared food. It also is exceedingly burdensome for small business franchisees.

The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015 rectifies these shortcomings, and would make NATSO members' menu-labeling obligations significantly less burdensome without sacrificing consumers' access to nutrition information.

More specifically, the legislation would provide flexibility on the placement and display of nutritional information within an establishment; clarify that an advertisement is not a menu; and provide liability protection and a reasonable period of time for businesses to correct mistakes and comply with the law. Finally, it would revise FDA's enforcement regime to avoid excessive, unpredictable punishments for alleged violations. 

Beginning Dec. 1, 2016, chain restaurants and “similar retail food establishments,” including many convenience stores operated by truckstop owners and operators, will be required to post calories for prepared food items that are sold in the establishment.  Entities covered by the rule must post calories either on menus or menu boards or, for self-service items and foods on display, on signs that are next to the items.  These establishments also will be required to provide additional written nutrition information to consumers upon request.  

 

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