ARLINGTON, VA—August 4, 2011—Thirty-six members of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives signed letters urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) not to expand chain restaurant menu labeling regulations to grocery stores. The letters strongly suggest FDA adopt the agency’s own alternative to limit the scope of the restaurant menu labeling rule to restaurants with menus or establishments that are primarily in the business of selling restaurant foods.

“We thank these Senators and Representatives for bringing this issue to the attention of FDA,” said FMI President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie G. Sarasin. “We believe these letters clarify that Members of Congress did not intend for the recently passed chain restaurant menu labeling law to be applied to supermarkets.”

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) recently filed comments on the FDA proposed rule implementing “Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants,” as included as Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act, which requires nutrition labeling on menus of standard items in chain restaurants.

Supermarkets average more than 34,000 items available for purchase, versus 80 items that FDA estimates for an average restaurant menu. Of these supermarket items, 95 percent or more of them are labeled with calorie information as well as a nutrition facts panel. Restaurants requested the menu labeling law in order to provide them a national, uniform standard that preempts various state and local menu labeling laws. None of the various state and local restaurant menu labeling laws currently apply to supermarkets. However, FDA’s proposed rule attempts to apply the restaurant nutrition regulations to grocery stores, even though such a move lacks precedent from state or municipal menu labeling laws.

The regulatory community has historically recognized the fundamental differences between the chain restaurant industry and supermarkets or grocery. Existing labeling regulations covering nutrition panels, food safety, allergens, ingredients, and country-of-origin labeling are currently applied differently for supermarkets than for restaurants. In addition, grocery stores already comply with the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which covers more than 95 percent of foods sold in a typical supermarket.