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    VIEWPOINT: Affordable Care Act Just Keeps Getting Worse

    Menu labeling regs unfairly treat c-stores.

    By Don Longo, Convenience Store News

    Wow, just when you thought you’d heard the worst about the Affordable Care Act -- a highly partisan piece of legislative claptrap that was enacted in 2010 over the objections of the majority of the American public -- another aspect of that odious law is soon going to impact convenience stores negatively and unfairly.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Nov. 25 released sweeping new menu labeling regulations that affect all restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, vending machines and convenience stores. The broad rules seek to establish a standard across all food establishments, without recognizing the very significant differences between a food establishment like McDonald’s and a retail convenience store that sells prepared food alongside packaged groceries, general merchandise, candy, snacks, soft drinks and beer, as well as gasoline.

    I always suspected that federal regulators live in little Hobbit-like underground huts with no view to the realities of the outside world. Now, I’m convinced of that.

    This FDA news comes on the heels of recent revelations that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist who helped draw up Obamacare was caught on video applauding the “lack of transparency” that was necessary to pass the law and crediting the “stupidity” of the American people who allowed the administration and its backers in Congress to deliberatively mislead the public about the details of the bill.

    So while President Obama campaigned on a promise that his health care plan would lower premiums, Johnathan Gruber, his plan architect, reportedly knew that Obamacare would massively increase insurance costs for average consumers.

    Gruber has been called to testify before the House Oversight Committee next month to explain the apparent intentional lack of transparency around the Affordable Care Act.

    So, what’s to be done? Repealing Obamacare is going to be a long, arduous task, even when the Republicans take control of both houses of Congress next year. The president is not going to sign any bill that dismantles any significant part of his signature so-called accomplishment.

    But there is bipartisan legislation in Congress today that can modify and limit the damage to convenience stores from the FDA’s menu labeling announcement.

    Congress should pass H.R. 1249, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, and S. 1756. These bills, according to supporter NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, would codify a less burdensome approach to menu labeling by limiting the provision in the health care law to establishments that derive 50 percent or more of their revenue from food that is intended for immediate consumption or prepared and processed on-site.

    According to the Convenience Store News 2014 Industry Report, the average convenience store derives less than 10 percent of its sales from prepared food. It’s clear that these stores shouldn’t be lumped into the same regulations governing restaurants.

    I urge all convenience store retailers to work with NACS, their congressmen and senators to pass H.R. 1249 and S. 1756. Those bills still allow for the establishment of clear, understandable nutritional information at big chain restaurants with standardized menus at all locations, but would exempt retailers that don’t sell prepared food as their primary business.

    This approach is more in line with Congress’ intent and common sense.

    By Don Longo, Convenience Store News
    • About Don Longo Don Longo is editorial director of EnsembleIQ's Convenience Store News. He has covered retailing for more than 30 years as a reporter, editor and publisher. Previously, he spearheaded the editorial efforts at a variety of business publications focused on mass, drug, grocery and specialty store retailing. Convenience Store News won American Business Media’s Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Issue of the Year in 2008 and 2012. Longo has won numerous other editorial awards over his career and is frequently quoted in the national and local news media on the subjects of retailing and consumer trends.

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