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Grocery retailers have met with members of Congress to garner further support for the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 1249), which addresses proposed chain restaurant menu labeling rules that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded to include traditional supermarkets as well.
During the meeting, Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and National Grocers Association (NGA) food retailer and wholesaler members explained to congressional representatives how, under the proposed rule, taking a piece of fruit from a produce department and slicing it for a customer would make a grocery store “similar” to a chain restaurant. According to the organizations, the labeling rule would place a regulatory burden on supermarkets that’s estimated to exceed $1 billion.
“Supermarkets are often seen as a resource to their shoppers, emphasizing nutrition and health-and-wellness information with their customers through wellness programs, dietitians and store tours,” noted Jennifer Hatcher, SVP of government and public affairs at FMI. “I fear we’ll witness a reverse trend in freshly prepared food offerings to more standardized, pre-packaged items if the proposed rule is enacted, which will only stifle the voice of the supermarket customer.”
Added Greg Ferrara, VP of public affairs at NGA: “The chain restaurant menu labeling issue has nothing to do with helping consumers make wise nutritional choices. Instead, the restaurants have been lobbying the FDA and Congress to subject food retailers to cumbersome regulations under the Affordable Care Act intended for chain restaurants that serve uniform menu items.”
The bipartisan Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act would include grocery and convenience stores in restaurant nutrition-labeling regulations only if those businesses are primarily engaged in restaurant activity. It also provides some flexibility for businesses that are included in the regulations, restaurants or not.