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When the Office of Management and Budget directed the Food and Drug Administration to re-examine the menu-labeling rule that had been slated to go into effect on May 5, the National Grocers Association (NGA) was among those stakeholders who breathed a sigh of relief. The main reason, according to Greg Ferrara, SVP of government relations for the Arlington, Va.-based trade group devoted to the independent grocery sector, is that the regulation in its existing form would create an undue burden for its members.
“The menu-labeling law, as originally passed by Congress, was intended to cover chain restaurants,” explained Ferrara. “But unlike chain restaurants, supermarkets operate in a variety of formats without standard menu items. Instead, many prepared food items sold in their stores are tailored to the community, and recipes, even for the same item, sometimes vary from store to store based on customer needs and demands.”
Continued Ferrara: “While chain independent supermarkets are committed to providing consumers with information, implementation of this regulation would be one of the most expensive regulations for the supermarket industry, with estimates exceeding $1 billion. We applaud the Administration for acting swiftly to address the concerns of Main Street grocers and look forward to working with the FDA on important fixes to the regulation that will provide independent supermarkets with flexibility to be able to provide consumers with this information and protection from frivolous lawsuits as they work to implement this regulation in-store.”
He added that the NGA was “continuing to work with our champions in Congress” on passage of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, which would institute the reforms to the rule that independent grocers seek,
Regarding the status of the rule itself, Progressive Grocer sister publication Convenience Store News reported that The Food and Drug Administration has filed a pre-publication version of an interim final rule that will move the compliance date of its final menu-labeling rule to May 7, 2018.
The Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute likewise hailed the extension.
“We appreciate FDA and the Trump administration’s thoughtful approach to taking more time to review the ... rule, which allows for an opportunity to resolve some of the tremendous challenges associated with its application in a grocery store environment. The Obama administration deemed this rule to be the third most burdensome of FY2010, with an estimate of more than 14.5 million hours necessary for compliance – an estimate now proven by the industry to be very low," said Leslie Sarasin, FMI's president and CEO. “Led by FMI in its continued efforts to assist its member companies in providing meaningful and accurate information to its customers, the supermarket industry for several years has sought common sense regulatory flexibility, such as liability protections for good-faith compliance efforts, allowing the use of a central menu board for a salad bar, and creating a regulatory environment that preserves the opportunity for selling locally-made and locally-sourced foods. These are sensible modifications that can easily be made and that will allow grocery stores to provide information to customers in a more efficient and accurate, less costly manner. It is wholly appropriate and necessary for FDA and the Trump administration to review this rule and its corresponding burdens using the common sense and logic that has been absent in the process thus far.”