On Friday, February 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed menu-labeling legislation that represents “another giant step forward in ensuring consumer choice and making it possible for convenience stores and others to comply,” said Henry Armour, NACS president and CEO.
“The House of Representatives has spoken: We need a common-sense approach to menu labeling that ensures more nutritional information and choice for consumers, while simplifying compliance for businesses of all sizes seeking to meet consumer needs,” Armour said.
By a strong bipartisan vote of 266–144, the House approved H.R. 2017, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015, introduced by Reps. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), to clarify and simplify costly and complex menu-labeling regulations for foodservice establishments promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Leading up to the vote, NACS members communicated to their representatives the importance of passing H.R. 2017, outreach that resulted in hundreds of letters sent to Capitol Hill.
During debate on the House floor, opponents attempted to dismantle the intent of H.R. 2017 by claiming it would allow food establishments to hide the amount of calories in foods. McMorris-Rodgers clarified for members of Congress that the bill is not about the merits of calorie counts, it does not remove the requirement for calorie counts on menus, and it does not make it more difficult for customers to receive nutritional information. “This bill, at its very core, is about flexibility,” she said.
“By bringing this [menu-labeling] rule into the 21st Century, customers can trust they are getting the reliable information they need in an easy to access, consumer-friendly way,” said McMorris-Rodgers. “It also protects small business owners and their employees from frivolous lawsuits and criminal actions that could be honest, inadvertent human error. Accidentally putting too many pickles on a sandwich and increasing its calorie count shouldn’t be a criminal offense.”
Foodservice sales continue to be a rising portion of the convenience store business—now accounting for nearly 19% of total in-store revenues at $42 billion in sales—as busy customers look for fast and healthier options to go. The FDA’s proposed regulations, however, were designed in a way that added unfair costs and compliance barriers to establishments with offerings that do not appear on a centralized “menu” board. A commonly cited example is how differently food is ordered from a central point in a traditional fast food restaurant versus the multiple coffee, frozen drink and food islands at a convenience store.
NACS has worked closely with both congressional leaders and the FDA to ensure that final regulations allow the industry to meet the ACA’s goals of more informed consumers and healthier fare, while facilitating compliance by convenience stores and other small businesses.
NACS advocacy efforts on menu-labeling will now shift to the Senate to encourage passage of S. 2217, companion legislation to H.R. 2017 that has been introduced by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (I-ME).