K-VA-T’s Israel O’Quinn Outlines Supermarket Industry Challenges with FDA Rule
June 4, 2015 – WASHINGTON, DC – Israel O'Quinn, director of strategic initiatives for K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc., today testified on behalf of Food Marketing Institute (FMI) before the United States House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee to express the supermarket industry’s support for the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015 (H.R. 2017), legislation addressing fundamental compliance challenges with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) final rule that includes grocery stories in a regulation developed for chain restaurants.
O’Quinn offered in written testimony today, “The supermarket industry constantly competes with each other to be at the forefront of providing customers with what they want and need, so our concerns with ‘menu labeling’ regulations are with FDA effectively mandating the standardization of foods that removes the creativity, passion and regional flavors our customers love.”
“Part of the problem is that all the initiatives that supermarkets have already implemented, such as Facts Up Front, NuVal or electronic kiosks, to provide customers with more useful nutrition information would not be compliant under FDA’s rules,” O’Quinn explained.
“Some of our stores have considered placing a sign, book or electronic kiosk listing calorie counts for all items above or at the end of the salad bar instead of putting a label on every ladle and tray, which are constantly moving and getting switched out. Based on what FMI has been told by FDA, this would not be considered compliant under FDA’s rules. We’ve also considered using scale-labels from our deli-area for grab-and-go items like sandwiches made from the deli early in the day, but with a FDA-mandated font size, the font-size would not be compliant without having to completely replace all of our scales and labels. To put it bluntly, this is going to be a very expensive endeavor.”
Complementing O’Quinn’s testimony, in a letter of support to Chairman Pitts, Ranking Member Green and Health Subcommittee Members, FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin outlined, “FDA’s flawed interpretation of the chain restaurant menu labeling law imposes unclear, expansive and expensive requirements on grocery stores. This legislation would address several of these critical issues…and [allow] adequate time for regulated stakeholders to properly implement the law.”
Sarasin continued, “To be clear, grocery stores want to provide customers with nutrition information and have done so for a very long time, at least since the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act was enacted in 1992. This desire to respond to our customers extends to the instances in which there are menus or menu boards, and FMI will continue its efforts to work with FDA to identify alternatives for this provision of additional menu nutrition information in the context of a grocery store environment.
“But the lack of time, guidance, and flexibility by FDA compels us to seek the legislative process to address these critical, outstanding issues to minimize the significant economic impact and customer confusion this rule has created.”
Link to written testimony from Israel O’Quinn, director of strategic initiatives, K-VA-T
Link to FMI letter to Health Subcommittee, June 4, 2015
FMI Blog with K-VA-T President and CEO Steve Smith on Menu Labeling
FMI Blog by Leslie Sarasin, “One of These Things is not Like the Other”