Restaurant Menu Labeling Provision would Stymie Innovation and Consumer Choice

April 18, 2013 – WASHINGTON, DC – Grocery retailers met today with their members of Congress to continue building support for the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 1249), which addresses proposed chain restaurant menu labeling rules that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration inappropriately expanded to include traditional supermarkets. 

Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and National Grocers Association (NGA) food retailer and wholesaler members visited their congressional representatives to explain how, under FDA’s s proposed rule, taking a piece of fruit from a produce department and cutting it into slices for a customer would consider a grocery store “similar” to a chain restaurant. Contradicting every state and local menu labeling regulation, the chain restaurant nutrition labeling rule is estimated to place a regulatory burden on supermarkets that exceeds $1 billion dollars.

There are nearly 37,000 items in the traditional grocery store and food retailers are constantly innovating to meet consumer demand for fresh and prepared goods. In addition to the 95 percent of products that are already required to be labeled with nutrition facts in the aisles, food retailers are continually exploring ways to provide more nutritional information and choice to meet all customers’ dietary and health-conscience needs. Ninety percent of retailers provide healthy recipes in store formats, and 57 percent of shoppers say they’ve tried a store’s new healthy recipe in the last year[i].

“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,” Jennifer Hatcher, FMI senior vice president of government and public affairs said. “I fear we’ll witness a reverse trend in freshly prepared food offerings to more standardized, pre-packaged items if the propose rule is enacted, which will only stifle the voice of the supermarket customer.”

Greg Ferrara, vice present of public affairs at NGA said, “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.”

The bipartisan Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act would ensure that the restaurants do not use the regulatory process to get FDA to expand burdensome regulations to businesses that were never part of the menu labeling laws at the local, state or federal level.  The legislation would include grocery and convenience stores in the restaurant nutrition-labeling regulations only if they are primarily engaged in restaurant activity. It also provides some flexibility for those businesses that are included in the regulations, restaurants or otherwise. 

[i] Shopping for Health, Prevention and FMI, 2012