WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate Appropriations held a hearing
yesterday on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed FY2014 budget.
During the hearing, Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) asked
Commissioner Margaret Hamburg about menu
labeling. The exchange is transcribed below:
Senator Blunt: What about the easy to deal with topic of
menu labeling? Where are you on that, when do you expect the FDA to issue its
Commissioner Hamburg: Well we hope to issue the final rule
soon. As you know it has been an extended process… we’ve talked before about
how I naively thought menu labeling would be one of the easier to implement
components of the law, but in fact it has been very challenging. But we have
had the opportunity for a process of notice and comment rulemaking and in
response to the proposed rule that we put forward we did receive a very large
number of comments. We are currently going through all of those and trying to
finalize a final policy document and we will be getting that out…certainly by
the end of this year although knock on wood, and as soon as we possibly can.
Blunt: By the end of this calendar year or fiscal?
Hamburg: I was saying calendar year. But it is a high priority
we’re trying to move forward with it. I can’t tell you exactly when, and
whenever I do make those kinds of statements I always regret it. But we are
moving into the home stretch and I know you’ve had many concerns about aspects
of it and we have heard those concerns and they were reflected in the comments
but it has been a complex rulemaking process.
Blunt: Well, you and I both have learned a lot more about
this than we would have ever expected to learn. And things like small chain
grocery stores, the food they have available in the store, drive-thrus,
locations that are almost exclusively delivery locations…how much posting do
they need to do at the location? All of those are things that obviously people
are going to look very closely at when that rule does come out…
Senator Cochran (R-MS): Madame Commissioner, I understand
the FDA is having some difficulty in complying with or figuring out how to
respond to the requirement that menus be labeled to show various things for the
consuming public. Food retailers in my state of Mississippi have expressed some
concerns too about how this affects them and how they’re supposed to comply.
What type of establishments do you foresee will be affected and governed by
these new requirements?
Hamburg: Well the law was quite explicit about chains of 20
or more restaurants or vending machines in terms of the applicability of FDA
regulatory oversight. Defining exactly what a…restaurant is fairly
straightforward; a restaurant-like establishment is a more complex challenge in
our modern world of fast food stores and pizza delivery and the different kinds
of models of in-grocery store cafes, etc. And that’s really where the greatest
challenges have come and where we have gone through an extended process for
putting out proposals, asking questions and seeking public comment and we are
trying now to go through all of that and compile the issues and concerns and
reflect those back in a final rule which we hope will be published very soon.
Make Your Voice Heard
NACS supports H.R. 1249, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act,
introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). This legislation
would apply menu-labeling provisions to locations where 50% or more of a
store’s revenues are from food that is: (a) intended for immediate consumption,
or (b) prepared and processed on-site. Prepackaged food would not be considered
in this solution. FDA would therefore be able to meet its goals of menu
labeling under law without adding unnecessary costs to convenience stores. Ask your representative
to support H.R. 1249 today!