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    Grocers Back House Menu-Labeling Bill

    Orgs laud legislation’s ability to grant ‘flexibility’ to indies

    The National Grocers Association (NGA) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI) have thrown their support behind H.R. 772, dubbed the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2017. The bipartisan legislation was advanced by the House Energy and Commerce Committee today.

    “This bill provides a much-needed solution to a burdensome regulation that was applied on a one-size-fits-all basis to vastly different industries,” noted Peter J. Larkin, president and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based NGA. “Unlike the chain restaurants this law was originally intended for, locally owned supermarkets operate in a variety of formats and often cater unique prepared foods to the communities they serve. NGA applauds the committee for moving this bill forward and working toward fixes that provide supermarkets with the flexibility to continue serving shoppers with local and unique food choices while ensuring consumers receive clear nutritional information.”

    “The committee's strong bipartisan vote demonstrates both Congress' and supermarkets' continued interest in getting the FDA menu-labeling standards fixed and implemented in a commonsense way that fits the variety of foods and formats of grocery stores,” said Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer at Arlington-based FMI.  “We appreciate Reps. [Cathy] McMorris Rodgers [R-Wash,] and [Tony] Cardenas [D-Calif.] for co-leading this effort.”

    In a July 26 letter addressed Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the committee, Larkin wrote that the legislation “addresses concerns that the independent supermarket industry has over the Food and Drug Administration’s final rule for Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments. … The bill contains important regulatory fixes that would eliminate confusion and uncertainty in implementation, limit burdensome regulatory costs and provide flexibility to community focused supermarkets to be able to tailor their offerings to the neighborhoods and communities they serve. H.R. 772 would provide commonsense reforms like protections for inadvertent human error, protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits, and provide regulatory relief for establishments that sell a certain item at only one location. Finally, H.R. 772 provides covered entities with adequate time to comply with the regulations, which are now slated to go into effect on May 7, 2018.”

    Added Larkin in the letter: “The independent grocery channel supports the goal of providing consumers with clear and consistent caloric and nutritional information at chains operating 20 or more locations, but believes this goal must be accomplished in a way that provides retailers and their associates with flexibility to meet the needs of local consumers and protections from frivolous lawsuits.”

    Meanwhile, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit health advocacy group focusing on nutrition and food safety policies, has described H.R. 772 itself as “a frivolous bill, which would let chains obscure nutrition information by using arbitrary and unrealistic serving sizes, and to put the information where few customers will see it.” Such a measure would “make it harder for Americans to avoid diet-related diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer,” according to CSPI, which accuses “many supermarkets and convenience stores” of “[finding] the pending requirements too inconvenient.”

    If the bill passes the House of Representatives, CSPI expressed the “hope [that] the Senate will reject it as counter to common sense, good health and consumers’ right to know.” A companion bill (S. 261) was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Angus King (I-Maine).

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