Menu labeling: What’s the hold-up?

April 24, 2013 | by Betsy Craig
Menu labeling: What’s the hold-up?

With new menu labeling requirements already overdue, a lot of rumors are circulating throughout the food industry. The latest heard at the NRA's Executive Study Group Tuesday in Dallas... the delay will continue until possibly September.

It's been three years since President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which mandated calorie labeling nationwide.

In 2011, the FDA proposed its new menu labeling requirements: all chain restaurants and food vendors with 20 or more locations would be required to display the calorie content of their foods on menus. These requirements excluded movie theaters, airports, hotels, bowling alleys, and other businesses that did not primarily sell food to the public. Alcohol was also made exempt from calorie labels.

So, why are we still not seeing menu labeling legislation take effect nationwide?

Currently, supermarkets and convenience stores are putting up the biggest fight against the new labeling regulations. Representatives from supermarkets say that they are making it a priority to push against the legislation, simply because the costs of implementing the labeling changes are seen to be prohibitive.

Supermarkets argue that the new rules would force them to label thousands of items, as opposed to far fewer in chain restaurant operations. They point out that legislation could also extend past the prepared food items, moving into cut fruit and non-packaged bakery items as well. The task of labeling each and every one of these items means more resources spent on sending items to testing labs, doing paperwork, training employees, etc., and supermarket representatives stress that these expenses will need to be passed on to the consumer.

Convenience stores are seeking exemption from menu labeling regulations for similar reasons: prohibitive costs of enacting the changes, along with increased signage that would "clutter" the small establishments.

Supporters of nutritional labeling in supermarkets and convenience stores argue that both of these top players in the food industry are breaking into the prepared foods market, and should therefore be required to label all foods that are not already pre-packaged and labeled. Why would a tub of potato salad be labeled with calorie information if it comes from a chain restaurant, and not labeled if it comes from the nearest supermarket? This is the "push and pull" that is happening between the FDA and the supermarket and convenience store representatives.

Menu labeling legislation may be proving trickier to handle than expected, but here's hoping that we will be able to move past the red tape sooner rather than later. It's time we give consumers the information they need to make healthier eating choices.

Topics: Operations Management

Betsy Craig
Betsy Craig brings 20 years of food service industry experience to MenuTrinfo, LLC a menu nutritional labeling Company. Her commitment to the betterment of the food industry and her desire to affect the dining public are the driving forces behind her new company Kitchens with Confidence, LLC. wwwView Betsy Craig's profile on LinkedIn

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