House Energy and Commerce Committee Advances Menu Labeling Reform

On Thursday, July 27, the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced H.R. 772, the “Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act,” by a vote of 39-14. 

In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released menu labeling regulations. Uncertainty surrounding the rule, however, has repeatedly delayed the compliance date. H.R. 772 would revise the menu labeling requirements so that retailers would be allowed to post all of the nutrition information on a single menu board, would not be liable for natural calorie and nutrition variations in foods, and would eliminate unreasonable penalties so that retailers are not be subject to frivolous lawsuits for good faith efforts to comply with the regulations. H.R. 772 ensures that retailers with varying business models are better able to comply with FDA’s regulations so consumers are provided with meaningful nutrition information.

During consideration of the bill by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, H.R. 772’s sponsor, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), offered an amendment that directs FDA to issue new rules within a year of the legislation’s enactment and gives FDA the opportunity to specify a new compliance date.  The committee approved the amendment by a voice vote. Representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR) offered an additional amendment to strike language in the bill that would allow retail food establishments – like pizza delivery chains – to post nutrition via a remote access menu rather than on-premises if the majority of orders are placed by customers off-site. The amendment was rejected. 

It is unclear when the legislation will be considered on the House floor.

This bill amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to revise the nutritional information that restaurants and retail food establishments must disclose. The nutrient content disclosure statement on the menu or menu board must include: (1) the number of calories contained in the whole menu item; (2) the number of servings and number of calories per serving; or (3) the number of calories per common unit of the item, such as for a multi-serving item that is typically divided before presentation to the consumer. Nutritional information may be provided solely by a remote-access menu (e.g., an Internet menu) for food establishments where the majority of orders are placed by customers who are off-premises.

Establishments with self-serve food may comply with the requirements for restaurants or place signs with nutritional information adjacent to each food item.

An establishment's nutrient content disclosures may vary from actual nutrient content if the disclosures comply with current standards for reasonable basis.

Establishments with standard menu items that come in different flavors, varieties, or combinations, that are listed as a single menu item can determine and disclose nutritional information using specified methods or methods allowed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Regulations pursuant to this bill or the clause amended by this bill cannot take effect earlier than two years after final regulations are promulgated.

The FDA may not exempt states from nutrition labeling requirements.

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