- The Shelby Report writes that two major food industry trade groups, the National Grocers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, are supporting a bipartisan bill that would further clarify the menu labeling program set forth by the Food and Drug Administration.
- The menu-labeling rule, which goes into effect in May, requires chain restaurants and food retailers with 20 or more locations to list calorie amounts on their in-store menus.
- The clarification bill would offer additional provisions that NGA and FMI say would ease the burden on grocery stores. These provisions include exempting certain local foods from labeling, allowing menu boards in prepared foods areas and securing liability safeguards in case of worker error.
The grocery industry has vehemently opposed the FDA’s menu labeling rule, which the agency announced in 2014 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Originally intended for chain restaurants, the rule expanded to include grocery stores as well.
“We are disappointed that the FDA's final rules will capture grocery stores and impose such a large and costly regulatory burden on our members," said NGA head Peter Larkin back in 2014.
Paying for food testing, labeling and other compliance measures would indeed be costly for retailers. And according to NGA and FMI, it would be unnecessary, considering the extensive nutrition labeling stores already employ. Leslie Sarasin, FMI’s president and CEO, has pointed to the 95% of grocery products labeled with Nutrition Facts.
It should be noted, however, that the new rule would apply to foodservice, where items typically don’t have the same level of nutrition transparency. It’s for this reason that consumer groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest applaud the FDA’s labeling rule.
The new bill being championed by NGA and FMI addresses the unique challenges grocers face in complying with the rule. What constitutes a “menu” gets addressed, since grocers often don’t have the sort of menus found in restaurants.
At the moment, the proposal is just a bill and was just assigned to committees in the House and Senate to begin the hearing process. Whether it actually can be passed and enacted — especially in a regulation-averse administration — remains to be seen.