The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act cleared a key House panel Nov. 4, setting the stage for a Committee vote on legislation that would make the Food and Drug Administration’s menu labeling regulations less burdensome on small businesses.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee could mark up the bill, which advanced out of the Subcommittee on Health, by mid-November.
Sponsored by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Wash.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act would require FDA to revise its current menu-labeling rules 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).
The rules are scheduled to take effect Dec. 1, 2016.
NATSO has worked closely with a group of businesses and trade associations representing convenience stores, general merchandise stores, supermarkets, grocery stores, and pizza chains. NATSO joined these groups to send a letter urging the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health to pass this important legislation.
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.
NATSO currently is preparing a detailed compliance guide to assist truckstop operators as they grapple with the menu-labeling requirements. This guide, which will incorporate the information contained in FDA's recent guidance document, will be available in the coming weeks.
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