Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial (below) on why we need to enact H.R. 772, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act before the May 5 deadline, which is quickly approaching, and I thought you may be interested in reading it.
This legislation currently has 63 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and enjoys bipartisan support in the Senate. Additionally, the House passed this legislation in the 114th Congress through regular order, and with a strong bipartisan vote of 266-144. The Manager’s Amendment – which included provisions supported by the National Restaurant Association – passed by an even stronger vote of 309-100.
H.R. 772 modifies the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) final menu labeling regulation (79 FR 71155) to allow for flexibility for restaurants and other retailers, like convenience stores, grocery stores, and pizza delivery stores, in how they provide nutritional information as required under current law in a way that makes sense for their stores and customers. In no way does the language limit or reduce the nutritional information provided to individuals – and all the businesses covered by the regulation will remain accountable once the legislation becomes law.
Immediate enactment of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act is critically important. Without action, America’s business owners will be faced with civil and criminal penalties including thousands of dollars in fines, prison time, or both if found non compliant. We should not be placing these additional burdens on the backs of our small business owners.
For more information or to co-sponsor this important legislation please contact Megan Perez in my office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your government at work: The pepperoni calorie-count rule.
April 16, 2017 5:50 p.m. ET
The Food and Drug Administration can’t possibly fulfill all of the responsibilities it claims to have, and here’s one way the Trump Administration can set better priorities: Direct the agency to end its effort to inform Americans that pizza contains calories.
An FDA rule to take effect May 5 requires chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus. The regulation also covers movie theaters, grocery stores, breweries and other establishments with more than 20 locations. The rule, required by the Affordable Care Act, has been revised and twice delayed in six years, mostly due to objections from a trade coalition called the American Pizza Community. (Regrettably, it does not issue membership cards.)
The more than 100-page rule, perhaps the longest meditation on fast food ever published, says that pizza purveyors must display per slice calorie ranges. Dominos offers 34 million potential combinations, and the number of pepperonis on a pizza can vary based on whether a customer also tosses on green peppers or something else. FDA suggests displaying verbiage like “pepperoni—200 added calories for a one-topping pizza” for every topping. Better have a calculator when ordering.
The regulation also defines menu to include advertisements or flyers that list a phone number or website for ordering—in other words, marketing material. The restaurant must certify that the store made “reasonable” efforts to ensure that calorie estimates are accurate, though the minds behind this rule don’t sound like reliable arbiters of reasonableness. The penalty for noncompliance is fines, jail or, this being America, class-action lawsuits.
The micromanaging extends to menu font and colors, which must be “the same color or in a color at least as conspicuous” as other types, according to FDA guidance. By the way, none of this will help consumers eat less pizza: Most customers place orders online or over the phone, not from a menu board. Dominos offers an online Cal-O-Meter to help customers know what they’re eating. Restaurants are already required to make this information available in stores and the web for those who wish to know.
The rule has also riled grocers who must label tuna sandwiches or other fresh foods where preparation isn’t standardized. A supermarket trade association, the Food Marketing Institute, says compliance will cost at least $1 billion and some grocers may decide to stop selling prepared foods.
A bill in the House would allow chains flexibility on where and how to display the counts, including online if most customers place orders on the web. The Senate has introduced companion legislation but skipped town last week and will almost certainly miss the May 5 enforcement date.
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration could direct the agency to delay or reconsider the rule until Congress acts. That would be a useful step in returning government to its core competencies, assuming any still exist, and allow Americans to make their own judgments about pizza.
Related Legislative Issues
Selected legislative information: Appropriations, HealthCare, Small Business