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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Fresh from its annual Day on Capitol Hill event, NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing is asking the convenience store industry to help keep the momentum going by raising their voices on two key issues: menu labeling and fuel liability reform.
According to the locally headquartered association, draft regulations to enact nutritional labeling requirements would impose unreasonable burdens on many businesses, particularly convenience stores. New legislation, the H.R. 1249 Commonsense Nutritional Disclosure Act, would ensure that the final regulations set reasonable standards and treat businesses according to their primary business activities.
The legislation comes as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing regulations that would require chain restaurants, "similar retail food establishments," and vending machines with 20 or more locations to provide specific nutritional information, including calorie-counts on menus, menu boards and drive-thru boards. Self-service items such as buffets and salad bars must contain caloric information "adjacent" to the item. Retailers would have to provide additional nutrition information in writing upon request, NACS explained.
Under the draft regulations "similar retail food establishments" are defined as those which devote 50 percent of the floor space to selling food. This definition would include pre-packaged foods that already have nutritional labels.
"NACS believes that revenue -- not floor space -- is how the government should measure a business' primary activity and that floor space is an ambiguous standard prone to manipulation," the association stated. "Also, prepackaged food -- which already contains nutritional information -- should not be a part of this equation. Instead, the FDA should be looking only at food that is prepared on-site and intended for immediate consumption. H.R. 1249 would require that final regulations adhere to these criteria."
H.R. 1249, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, authored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), would apply menu-labeling provisions to locations where 50 percent or more of a store's revenues are from food that is: (a) intended for immediate consumption, or (b) prepared and processed on-site. Prepackaged food would not be considered in this solution.
As for fuel liability reform, NACS said that conflicting federal laws concurrently encourage and penalize retailers for selling new fuels. However, the recently introduced H.R. 1214, Domestic Fuels Protection Act, will provide retailers the flexibility and legal protection to more effectively offer their customers new fuels.
Challenging the market is the enactment of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), which mandates that 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels are sold by 2022. "However, meeting this mandate will be near impossible to satisfy if retailers are only selling E10 and E85," the association explained.
Presenting another obstacle, most retail fueling equipment in the marketplace today is only certified as compatible with E10 and not higher-blend fuels, according to NACS.
"To sell these higher blends and meet the RFS mandate, retailers would have to replace underground storage tanks, dispensers, nozzles -- a very expensive endeavor," NACS added. "Retailers are also in the crosshairs of potential legal action if a consumer misfuels a vehicle that is not compatible with a higher-blend fuel such as E15."
NACS supports legislation that would provide fuel retailers with the opportunity to sell new fuels, such as E15, responsibly and lawfully and protect them from liability if another person misfuels an engine with a non-approved fuel. H.R. 1214, the Domestic Fuels Protection Act, authored by U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) -- also referred to as the "fuel neutral" bill -- would ensure that equipment that meets the Environmental Protection Agency's equipment compatibility guidelines satisfy all applicable compatibility requirements, protect retailers from misfueling liability and prevent retroactive liability if a fuel sold today is later declared defective, NACS explained.
NACS has provided letters in support of both bills for industry members to send to their elected officials in the U.S. House of Representatives.