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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Grocery retailers met today with members of Congress to garner more support for the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 1249), which would include grocery and convenience stores in menu labeling regulations only if those businesses are primarily engaged in restaurant activity.
During the meeting, retailer and wholesaler members of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and National Grocers Association (NGA) explained to congressional representatives how, under the rule currently proposed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), taking a piece of fruit from a produce department and slicing it for a customer would make a grocery store "similar" to a chain restaurant.
"Supermarkets are often seen as a resource to their shoppers, emphasizing nutrition and health and wellness information with their customers through wellness programs, dietitians and store tours," noted Jennifer Hatcher, senior vice president of government and public affairs for FMI. "I fear we’ll witness a reverse trend in freshly prepared food offerings to more standardized, pre-packaged items if the proposed rule is enacted, which will only stifle the voice of the supermarket customer."
According to the trade organizations, the FDA's proposed chain restaurant menu labeling rules would place a regulatory burden on supermarkets that’s estimated to exceed $1 billion.
"The chain restaurant menu labeling issue has nothing to do with helping consumers make wise nutritional choices. Instead, the restaurants have been lobbying the FDA and Congress to subject food retailers to cumbersome regulations under the Affordable Care Act intended for chain restaurants that serve uniform menu items," added Greg Ferrara, vice president of public affairs for NGA.
NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, also supports the bipartisan Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act. The association has called the act "a thoughtful approach to providing the necessary flexibility and understanding of foodservice operations at convenience stores."
As CSNews Online previously reported, the act would amend a portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which calls for a national, uniform, nutrition-disclosure standard for foodservice establishments. The regulations currently proposed by the FDA would require chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations, along with vending machines, to provide specific nutritional information such as calorie counts on menus, menu boards and drive-thru boards. Self-service foodservice stations would have to post caloric counts adjacent to items, and retailers would be obligated to provide additional nutritional information on request.