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Thirty-six members of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have signed letters requesting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) not expand chain restaurant menu labeling regulations to grocery stores. The letters instead urge that FDA adopt its own alternative to limit the scope of the restaurant menu labeling rule to restaurants with menus or establishments that mainly sell restaurant foods.
“We believe these letters clarify that members of Congress did not intend for the recently passed chain restaurant menu labeling law to be applied to supermarkets,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of Arlington-based Food Marketing Institute (FMI).
The trade group recently filed comments on the FDA proposed rule implementing “Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants,” as included as Sec. 4205 of the Affordable Care Act, which requires nutrition labeling on menus of standard items in chain restaurants.
Supermarkets average more than 34,000 items available for purchase, compared with the 80 items that FDA estimates for an average restaurant menu. Of these supermarket items, 95 percent or more of them include labels with calorie information and a nutrition facts panel. Restaurants requested the menu labeling law to provide them a national, uniform standard that pre-empts various state and local menu labeling laws. None of the various state and local restaurant menu labeling laws currently apply to supermarkets, but FDA’s proposed rule attempts to apply the restaurant nutrition regulations to grocery stores – an unprecedented move, according to FMI.
The regulatory community has historically recognized the fundamental differences between the chain restaurant industry and supermarkets or grocery, noted the trade organization. Existing labeling regulations covering nutrition panels, food safety, allergens, ingredients, and country-of-origin labeling are currently applied differently for supermarkets than for restaurants. Further, FMI pointed out that grocery stores already comply with the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which covers more than 95 percent of foods offered in a typical supermarket.