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National Grocers Association President and CEO Peter Larkin and FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin advocated for legislation to scale back the FDA’s final menu labeling rules during a press conference today, which introduced the Common Sense Disclosure Act of 2015. U.S. Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), who introduced the new bill that seeks to refine the menu labeling laws introduced at the end of last year that lumps supermarkets in with chain restaurants, also were present at the event.
“Independent grocers … are committed to providing the communities they serve with high quality service and food choices,” Larkin said. “In order to meet the demands of their consumers, supermarket operators will customize product selection and variety to the unique needs of the local community.”
Sarasin added that consumers use supermarkets as allies and advocates when it comes to making healthy choices. "FMI’s grocery members have been providing nutritional information via the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act to our customers for more than 25 years under a system designed for – and effective within – a grocery system," she added. "So, our concerns about the requirements are not rooted in an objection to providing information. We already do that. Rather, our objection lies in the assumption that grocery stores operate just like chain restaurants. They do not."
The current menu labeling law requires restaurants or similar food establishments with 20 or more locations under the same name to post calorie information for standard menu items on menu boards as well as a message about suggested caloric intake. Other information, such as total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and proteins, must be presented upon request. The similar food establishments covered under the law include foods like made-to-order sandwiches purchased from grocery stores or delis. However, meals intended for more than one person and require additional preparation that are purchased from a grocery store are not covered under the law.
The Common Sense Disclosure Act of 2015 would:
- Allow for up to two years for compliance following publication of updated final regulations, and at least one year for compliance with FDA published guidance;
- Clarify that the menu labeling law is intended for “standard menu items,” defined as those items prepared with uniformity and routinely included on a menu or menu board at 20 or more locations;
- Provide some flexibility on the placement and display, such as font-sizing, of nutritional information where customers make their purchasing decisions; and
- Provide liability protection by allowing an establishment to take corrective actions within 90-days prior to federal, state and municipal enforcement and protects against frivolous civil actions.