The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) has applauded the reintroduction of legislation to protect small businesses and their workers from the unreasonable burdens and potential criminal penalties of the Food and Drug Administration’s final menu labeling regulations.
The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, reintroduced by Representatives Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA 5) and Tony Cardenas (D-CA 29) in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 772) and Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (I-ME) in the U.S. Senate (S. 261), provides a more practical and flexible approach to regulations finalized in 2014 by the FDA. The FDA is due to begin enforcing the current regulations on May 5, 2017.
“We need some common-sense relief to the FDA’s menu labeling requirements so that it is reasonable and achievable for local convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants, and others that sell food. Small businesses are already having to spend money trying to comply with difficult and unworkable regulations. I am pleased to introduce this bill that recognizes the importance of menu labeling, but more importantly recognizes that there needs to be flexibility for businesses so they can provide important nutritional information to customers in the most useful way,” said U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO).
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05) also weighed in: “Whether you buy food at the local convenience store or eat out at the neighborhood diner, you should have access to important nutritional information. The FDA’s one-size-fits-all approach places additional burdens on the backs of our nation’s small business owners without giving them the flexibility they need to comply with the regulations. How businesses provide that information should be consistent with how their customers actually place orders—including by phone, online or through mobile apps. By bringing this rule into the 21st Century, we can provide relief to our job creators and preserve important nutritional information for American families at the same time.”
NACS has called for rapid action by Congress and the new administration as the May 5 compliance deadline nears.
Lyle Beckwith, NACS senior vice president of government relations, stated, “It is critical that Congress and the new administration act quickly before the May 5 compliance deadline to provide for common-sense, simpler menu-labeling regulations that would ensure more nutritional information and choice for consumers—without exposing small businesses to burdensome costs and penalties and their employees to potential felony prosecution for accidentally putting too many pickles in a sandwich.”
The current FDA menu-labeling regulations create rigid requirements that do not take into account the differences in approach to foodservice between big-chain restaurants and convenience stores, grocery stores and delivery operations. In particular, the FDA regulations added unfair costs and compliance barriers to establishments with offerings that do not appear on a centralized “menu” board and establishments that may have multiple coffee, frozen drink and food islands as opposed to the central ordering point in a traditional fast food restaurant. The regulations also place a store or restaurant at risk for criminal penalties if it gives some customers larger servings than they expected based on the calorie information provided.
The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, which passed the House last year by a strong bipartisan vote of 266–144, maintains but modifies FDA’s menu-labeling regulations so businesses may provide nutritional information to customers in a more practical format. The legislation protects small businesses from overly burdensome costs and penalties, while also removing the possibility of criminal penalties.
Convenience store foodservice sales have risen to $42 billion a year—now accounting for nearly 19% of total in-store revenues—as busy customers look for fast and healthier options to go.