The House Appropriations Committee recently added report language to its appropriations legislation clarifying the congressional intent in its menu-labeling law. The action comes as the Food and Drug Administration prepares to issue menu labeling rules, which some have criticized as going beyond what Congress envisioned.
The proposed FDA regulations currently require chain restaurants with more than 20 locations along with bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stores and coffee chains to clearly post the calorie count for each item on their menus. Additional nutritional information would have to be available upon request. The rules would also apply to vending machines if calorie information isn't already visible on the package.
The proposed FDA rule also defined a “covered entity” as any retailer that devoted more than 50 percent of the store’s floor area to selling food.
The House Agriculture Committee’s report language urges the FDA to only apply the proposed rule to retail establishments where the majority of the business is for the selling of food for immediate consumption and/or prepared and processed on-site. It also urges FDA to do a cost benefit analysis on the proposed rule’s impact on non-restaurant entities such as convenience stores.
In April 2014, the FDA sent the menu labeling proposed rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), kicking off a 90-day review period.
The FDA has yet to announce what changes were made to the rules, which initially were proposed in 2011.
NATSO supports the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, which calls for a less burdensome approach to menu labeling and includes language addressing the types of retail locations that are covered by the federal requirements. The legislation limits those requirements to apply only to restaurants or similar retail food establishments that derive more than 50 percent of their total revenue from the sale of food, with prepackaged food not being considered in this equation. For businesses that are covered by the rules, the legislation allows more flexibility in menu labeling, such as allowing calorie ranges as opposed to a specific number, which is difficult in made-to-order situations.
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