WASHINGTON - NACS hailed legislation introduced yesterday, H.R. 6174, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, as a thoughtful approach to providing the necessary flexibility and understanding of convenience store foodservice operations.
"This legislation will allow the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to satisfy Congress€™s objectives without unnecessarily burdening most convenience stores," said Norfolk, Va.-based Miller Oil Co. President Jeff Miller during a Capitol Hill press conference announcing the new legislation.
The bipartisan legislation, introduced by U.S. Representative John Carter (R-TX) codifies a less burdensome approach to menu labeling and includes language addressing the types of retail locations that are covered by federal menu-labeling requirements.
Carter unveiled H.R. 6174 with Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), along with industry representatives from the grocery, convenience store and pizza community.
"The Affordable Care Act was a 2,000 page bill and most House members had no idea it created new federal regulations on pizza toppings and sub sandwiches," said Carter in a press statement. "The rules the government now seeks to impose on pizza alone would force these guys to wallpaper their stores with calorie information on every possible combination of toppings, while the majority of their customers order delivery over the phone and never come in €" and that€™s crazy€¦So is trying to force convenience and grocery stores to meet the same labeling requirements as a restaurant. But the threat of fining a business because a teenage employee put two extra slices of pepperoni on a pizza goes from crazy to scary."
The current health-care law includes a provision that calls for a national, uniform nutrition-disclosure standard for foodservice establishments. Regulations implementing this provision, released in 2011, would create rigid requirements that pose an unreasonable burden on many businesses, particularly convenience stores. The proposed regulations would require chain restaurants, "similar retail food establishments," and vending machines with 20 or more locations to provide specific nutritional information, including calorie-counts on menus, menu boards and drive-thru boards. Self-service items such as buffets and salad bars must contain caloric information "adjacent" to the item. Retailers would have to provide additional nutrition information in writing upon request.
Carter€™s legislation limits the provision in Section 4205 of the health-care law to establishments that derive 50% or more of their revenue from food that is intended for immediate consumption or prepared and processed on-site. Prepackaged food would not be considered in this equation. Given that last year 17% of convenience stores€™ in-store revenue dollars were derived from prepackaged food, according to NACS State of the Industry data, most convenience stores would be exempt under the new legislation.
For those convenience stores that would be covered by federal menu-labeling requirements, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act provides more flexibility with compliance. Retailers could select from several approaches in providing calorie information. For instance, pizza sellers could provide calories per slice or for the whole pizza. The legislation also would allow retailers more flexibility in providing calorie ranges as opposed to a specific number, which is often more difficult to define with made-to-order food.
"Convenience stores and their food offerings vary greatly €" even those like mine that are part of the same chain €" based largely on their location and customer base. This legislation provides retailers with the flexibility they need to communicate calorie nutrition information. More important, it sets realistic requirements for how businesses are classified under these regulations," said Miller, who served as the 2010-2011 NACS chairman.
NACS has been actively engaged with the FDA during the regulatory process, ensuring that the agency understands the convenience store industry€™s unique perspective on federal nutrition disclosure obligations.
"This legislation would allow FDA to meet the objectives of the menu-labeling law without unnecessarily burdening retailers that rightfully should be outside of its scope," said Miller.