U.S. Senator Angus King, along with Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), introduced legislation last week that would free grocery stores and other covered food establishments from the regulatory burdens of a poorly interpreted menu-labeling provision within the Affordable Care Act.
Specifically, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2013 would limit the scope of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement a chain restaurant menu labeling provision mandated by the new healthcare law. Signed into law in March 2010, the Affordable Care Act includes a provision that calls for a national, uniform nutrition-disclosure standard for foodservice establishments, originally intended for restaurants. Regulations implementing this provision released in 2011 by the FDA, however, also unexpectedly incorporated grocery and convenience stores. In addition, the proposed rule created rigid requirements that pose an unreasonable burden on many businesses by requiring them to provide calorie information for whole menu items, irrespective of the number of servings in the product delivered to customers. For example, pizza establishments would have to label their pizzas per whole pie rather than per slice. Additionally, many grocery and convenience stores, including many across Maine, offer food bars that would be impacted by the proposed rule.
Senator King's bill would codify a less burdensome approach to menu-labeling by allowing covered establishments greater flexibility in providing calorie information. Under the bill, covered establishments could present calorie information through one of several approaches, including:
for the whole product
the number of servings and the number of calories per serving
the number of calories per the common unit of division
"Grocers, restaurants, and food providers across Maine are already struggling with a sluggish economy and cumbersome federal regulations," Senator King said. "Regulations play an important role in keeping people safe, but we have to ensure they are smart, targeted, and effective. Otherwise, they will only stifle economic growth. My common sense legislation with Senator Blunt is a scale-appropriate approach to menu labeling regulations that will provide consumers with the information they need without unnecessarily burdening food providers."
The National Association for Convenience Stores, the National Grocers Association and the Food Marketing Institute have endorsed Senator King's bill, as well as Hannaford and the Maine Grocers Association:
"Hannaford commends Senator King for the leadership he has shown in sponsoring legislation that ensures FDA does not overstep its authority in its imposition of menu labeling requirements," said Teross Young, Vice President of Government Relations for Delhaize America, parent company of Hannaford. "Time spent dealing with costly and burdensome regulatory requirements is time we are not able to devote to serving our customers and providing them with the highest-quality produce, meat and deli products."
"The Maine Grocers Association thanks Senator King for sponsoring legislation that protects Maine's supermarket operators, as well as the 200 family owned and operated grocery stores that operate under a marketing banner such as IGA or Shurfine, from potential FDA overreach when implementing restaurant menu labeling requirements," said Shelley F. Doak, Executive Director of the Maine Grocers Association. "The bill introduced by Sen. King will allow Maine's grocers to continue focusing on providing the fresh, local products that our customers desire."
For more information on The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2013, click here.
This legislation represents the second-time Senators King and Blunt have teamed-up to streamline ineffective federal regulations. In July, the Senators introduced the Regulatory Improvement Act of 2013, a bill that would create a Regulatory Improvement Commission to review outdated regulations with the goal of modifying, consolidating, or repealing regulations in order to reduce compliance costs, encourage growth and innovation, and improve competitiveness.