In less than three weeks, a 400-page menu labeling rule is set to take effect, subjecting independent grocers to an onerous, one-size-fits all law that was originally intended to cover chain restaurants with standard menu items.
This law, which was wrapped up within the Affordable Care Act, threatens to impose burdensome and costly regulations on grocers, and ultimately impacts their store operations and how they serve their customers.
Implementation of this regulation represents one of the costliest regulations for the supermarket industry with estimates exceeding $1 billion for our industry alone. The average covered supermarket will have well over 100 qualifying items, including many local and regional products that will be impacted. Recipes must be standardized, nutritional information must be calculated by outside parties or software, in-store signage must be created, training must be conducted, and in many cases software and hardware for in-store scales must be replaced. Further, and even more troublesome, under current law even the smallest failure to comply with the menu labeling rule can carry civil and criminal penalties of up to a $1,000 fine, and or the possibility of jail time.
To be clear, grocers are not looking for an exemption from the law, but rather commonsense changes and clarity from the FDA on how to comply.
In February, NGA applauded the reintroduction of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2017 (H.R. 772, S. 261) sponsored by Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Tony Cardenas (D-CA) in the House and Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (I-ME) in the Senate
The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act provides independent grocers and other businesses with the flexibility to implement the FDA menu labeling rule in a way that works for businesses, while supplying customers with the nutritional information they desire. Without proper flexibility and guidance, independent supermarkets would struggle to meet the requirements before the implementation deadline.
The legislation provides common sense reforms that are important to independent grocers, such as:
- Allowing for the use of one, centralized menu board instead of needing to individually label items in each location around the store
- Protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits by prohibiting private rights of action
- Ensure that businesses acting in good faith to comply with the rule will not be punished for inadvertent human errors
- Allow for unique items to be sold at one store without requiring that it be labeled
- Delay the implementation of the rule in order to provide businesses with additional time to fully comply
NGA continues to seek clarity from the FDA and work with our champions in Congress to pass the bipartisan Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act so to ensure a federal menu labeling solution that works for both consumers and businesses.