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NEW YORK and ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Foodservice and retail associations, including NACS, the Association for Convenience and Petroleum Retailing, have presented their comments and concerns regarding the proposed federal menu-labeling regulations to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The regulations, which are a provision of federal health care reform or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, were published April 1 by the FDA.
Among other things, the proposed rules would require most convenience store chains with 20 or more outlets to post calorie counts on menus and next to self-service food items, and also have additional nutrition information available to consumers upon request.
NACS submitted comments expressing why convenience stores should not be covered under the menu-labeling regulations; it also advised how the proposed rules can be improved should they ultimately cover convenience stores.
Specifically, NACS recommended that the definition of a "covered entity" be limited to establishments where more than 50 percent of revenue (including motor fuels sales) is derived from the sale of restaurant or restaurant-type food (excluding pre-packaged food, which already contains nutrition information).
Should the FDA consider floor area devoted to food sales as an appropriate measurement (rather than revenue), then the definition should include floor area devoted to food sales in relation to the establishment's total floor space (including space devoted to selling motor fuels), NACS reasoned.
NACS also submitted recommendations regarding:
• Self-serve beverages -- NACS is asking the FDA to allow calorie counts to be displayed based on ounces, which would provide uniform information throughout all establishments.
• Self-service food on display -- NACS suggested the FDA revise its proposed rules to allow calorie information to be posted on the door of a display case, or at the "head" of a self-service table or counter, rather than adjacent to each individual food item.
• "Primary" menu boards -- NACS recommended that if there are multiple menus in a single store, each offering the same food items, the store should be permitted to select the "primary" menu upon which calories must be disclosed.
Other comments were submitted on behalf of the foodservice industry by a coalition comprised of the National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR), National Restaurant Association (NRA), and International Franchise Association (IFA).
"Our members strongly supported adoption of a national menu-labeling law, and we look forward to the orderly implementation of these requirements," said NCCR vice president Scott Vinson. "However, we have grave concerns regarding certain of the FDA's proposed interpretations of the [legislation]."
Dawn Sweeney, NRA president and chief executive, added: "Given the complexity of the restaurant industry and the many different types of concepts ranging from quick-service to fine dining, we appreciate the FDA's efforts to draft these regulations."
Issues addressed by the coalition's comments include nutrition information and enforcement, who is included, disclosure flexibility, updating nutritional information, the timing of implementation and costs for smaller franchisees.
The FDA is expected to review the comments over the coming months and formulate final regulations.