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Food industry groups have expressed their support for legislation introduced by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Angus King (I-Maine) that limits the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ability to implement a chain restaurant menu labeling provision that was included in the Affordable Care Act. The Senate bill is a companion to H.R. 1249, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, introduced by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) and another 49 Republican and Democratic co-sponsors.
“We are encouraged by the bipartisan, bicameral support for FDA to follow a more practical approach to menu labeling,” said Jennifer Hatcher, SVP of government and public affairs for the Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute. “The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act is consistent with an alternative proposal by FDA, as well as state and municipal menu labeling laws, to limit menu labeling to establishments that are primarily restaurants. By definition, and by almost all preceding food laws, grocery stores are not restaurants.”
Added Hatcher: “Supermarkets are constantly seeking the most effective ways to address consumers’ nutritional needs. The vast majority of foods in supermarkets are already labeled with complete Nutrition Facts information, and many stores are voluntarily adopting more user-friendly guidance on the front of food packages, shelf tags, and increasing the role of in-store dietitians. Plus, grocery stores comply with country-of-origin labeling allergen labeling and ingredient labeling.”
She further noted that “FDA’s current, proposed menu labeling rule imposes a billion-dollar burden on supermarkets, with no additional, quantifiable benefit to supermarket customers, according FDA’s analysis,” and praised the bills’ sponsors “for supporting legislation that maintains the integrity of federal menu labeling while preserving supermarkets’ ability to serve their customers.”
“The scope of the nutrition labeling provision as proposed by Congress was to provide a uniform standard for chain restaurant menu labeling, not grocery stores,” noted Peter J. Larkin, president and CEO of the National Grocers Association, also based in Arlington. Larkin pledged that the organization would work “with Congress to pass this key legislation and prevent such a large and costly regulatory burden from passing onto our members.”
According to FMI, 95 percent of the food products in grocery stores are already labeled.