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Congress to consider some easing of menu labeling regs

chipotle menu board

C-stores, supermarkets and other establishments that sell ready-to-eat food as a secondary business are pushing for adjustments in the menu labeling rules that will be imposed on all multiunit foodservice establishments in December.

The tweaks incorporated in a bill working through Congress, H.R. 2017, would provide food outlets with more latitude in how the information could be provided. For instance, places with a high volume of delivery or pre-ordered takeout business could meet the disclosure requirements by posting caloric information on their websites rather than on their menu boards.

Proponents argue that permitting more means of compliance would enable establishments to pick the method that makes the most sense for their clientele—and for the business. They also note that new ordering methods, like self-service kiosks and tabletop tablets, challenge the notion that menu boards are the best place to post nutritional information about the menu.

The measure, also known as the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, underscores what’s known as the “reasonable basis” standard. It holds that restaurants and other foodservice establishments should have reasonable latitude in serving sizes, which determine calorie counts. For instance, the nutritional information for a fried chicken leg would vary slightly because chickens vary in size and the amount of batter needed to coat a piece would change accordingly.

Amendments under consideration for the bill would also protect restaurants, c-stores or other food sellers from criminal penalties if they should fail to comply with the final labeling rules, which have yet to be disclosed.

Beltway observers say H.R. 2017 was recently passed out of committee with considerable enthusiasm from the members, suggesting that it could draw support if it’s put to a full chamber vote. A full House vote is expected sometime this week, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.

The measure has not altered the objectives of the National Restaurant Association in regard to menu labeling.

“Our core principles remain focused on national preemption [of state and local labeling requirements], legal protections covered by the reasonable basis standard, disclosure of calories on all points of ordering which includes menus, remote-ordering, kiosks, drive-thru menus and menu boards, and provision of additional nutritional information on premise,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “We will continue to work with FDA on implementation and address issues at the regulatory level as they arise.”
 

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