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Industry trade groups are busy studying exactly what new U.S. Food and Drug Administration draft guidance regulating menu calorie counts means for their grocery retailer members.
Leaders of the Food Marketing Institute and National Grocers Association, among others, criticized the FDA ruling, announced late last year, arguing that it unfairly forced supermarket foodservice to operate under rules designed for chain restaurants. The ruling requires chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations to list calorie information on their menus and menu boards.
The rules, they argued, did not consider the unique operating conditions of supermarkets, whose prepared foods offerings typically change frequently based on ingredients on hand, and were unclear regarding similar foods sold in alternate formats by different store departments.
“We certainly appreciate FDA's attempt to clarify a cumbersome regulation that was not originally designed for the supermarket industry,” said Leslie Sarasin, FMI president and CEO. “This guidance is a helpful start to what we hope will be an ongoing dialog about the most appropriate ways of addressing implementation questions being raised by food retailers.”
Looking for clarification
Sarasin said FMI is in the process of reviewing the guidance document with its food retail members.
“At the same time, we will continue to work with FDA and pursue our legislative objectives with Congress in order to clarify and/or address the outstanding concerns,” she said. “As we and Members of Congress have reminded FDA, chain restaurants and supermarkets are fundamentally different – and on issues as diverse as their business operations and their service offerings. So, we look forward to working with the agency in shaping guidance for a labeling process that makes sense both in a grocery store setting and to provide meaningful information to food retail customers.”
Greg Ferrara, NGA’s VP of public affairs, similarly stated, “We appreciate the FDA’s efforts to provide this additional guidance. NGA is committed to working with the FDA and our members to ensure they are prepared to comply with this law; however we feel it is important for Congress to act to pass legislation that provides important fixes to the law.”