FMI: Menu Labeling Must Exclude Grocery Stores

WASHINGTON — The Food Marketing Institute has reinforced its position on calorie-count menu labeling — that the federal Food and Drug Administration’s menu labeling regulations should not extend to grocery stores.

At a press conference held near the Capitol yesterday, FMI underscored its support of a bill, H.R. 1249, known as "The Commonsense Nutrition Disclosure Act,” that was reintroduced in Congress yesterday. The bill, the same in substance, as one introduced in the last Congress, adopts Option 2 of FDA’s menu nutrition labeling proposal, an option that would exclude grocery stores and convenience stores from mandatory menu labeling.

FDA has proposed regulations that would regulate grocery stores under the “Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants” provision (§ 4205) included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), but has also proposed an Option 2 (described above) which the grocery industry favors.

Along with FMI representatives, the co-sponsors of H.R. 1249, and representatives of National Grocers Association, National Association of Convenience Stores, and the American Pizza Community participated in the news conference. Lorelei Mottese, director of government affairs for Wakefern Food Corp., Keasbey, N.J., represented the grocery industry.

FMI’s position was stated thus, “Congress should adopt H.R. 1249 — Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act — to codify FDA’s proposed “Option 2” to implement restaurant menu labeling without capturing mainstream grocery stores where the vast majority of foods are already labeled with complete Nutrition Facts information.”

The FDA labeling proposal was intended to provide a uniform standard for chain restaurants with 20 or more locations to preempt the various state and local menu labeling laws, none of which have regulated grocery stores, FMI states.

If the grocery industry were included, the initial costs to the industry could exceed a billion dollars, and there would be ongoing costs, FMI’s statement continues.

“This [menu labeling] was not designed to regulate grocery stores,” Erik Lieberman, FMI’s regulatory counsel, told SN in a telephone interview.

“It would have a disproportionate impact on grocery stores which have at least 1,500 items compared to a restaurant menu that might have 80 items on it."

H.R. 1249, embodying FDA’s Option 2, was to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif.

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