Executives from trade associations representing the grocery, convenience and pizza industries, including NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings, on Sept. 8 urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise the menu-labeling rule to make it easier for the industries to comply with the regulation to provide accurate nutritional information to customers as well as eliminate the possibility of criminal penalties for violations.
The letter followed Aug. 25 statements by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in which he promised that FDA would issue more detailed guidance on the rule by the end of the year. FDA’s previous attempts to issue menu-labeling guidance have failed to clarify critical industry concerns. As such, restaurants and food retailers continue to seek modifications to the rule.
Signatories included NATSO, the American Pizza Community, Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), National Grocers Association (NGA), and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA).
The FDA's menu-labeling rule presents a number of complexities for travel stores and convenience stores that sell prepared food and is exceedingly burdensome for small business franchisees. The rule requires any chain restaurant or similar retail food establishment with 20 or more locations to display calorie counts on menus and menu boards for all prepared and packaged food items for sale.
The associations have independently filed extensive comments with the agency providing strong evidence for the need to rewrite key aspects of the rule to make it workable.
Comments from the groups include specific examples of provisions that must be fixed as well as a detailed economic analysis of the real-world impact of the rule and demonstrate that without changes the rule will be three times as expensive to implement as the agency originally forecast.
NATSO submitted comments Aug 2. to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after the agency solicited public comment on how the Final Rule could be improved in the wake of a May 1 announcement that the compliance date would be delayed until May 7, 2018.
The groups said the detailed comments submitted by their organizations and members of their industries could not have been fully considered and evaluated considering the timing of Commissioner Gottlieb’s statements so quickly after the close of the rule’s comment period.
To provide consumers with nutrition information for the foods their members sell, the groups said they need a rule that is flexible, allowing entities with differing business models to comply with its terms in ways that are not unduly burdensome and that result in the providing of information, not penalties on employers.
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