Pizza Chains Argue Practicality Of Federal Menu Labeling Regulations

There might be more than 30 million ways to make a pizza, but the joys of customization are colliding with the realities of regulation. Last week, the nation’s largest pizza chains went to Capitol Hill to push for changes to a proposed menu labeling plan that would force chains to post their products’ calorie counts in-store.

The group of rivals, known as The American Pizza Community, includes Domino’s, Godfather’s Pizza, Little Caesars, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut. Congress required menu labeling as part of the health-care reform law enacted in 2010, and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has been working on the details ever since. Under the law, chains with at least 20 locations must disclose calories on menus and menu boards. Sodium, fat content and other nutritional information have to be made available upon request.

TAPC told lawmakers that the government’s plan forces store owners to pay for in-store menu boards costing operators up to $5,000. The group also said most of their customers don’t see the boards before ordering because 90% of orders are placed online or over the phone. Also raising hackles is the requirement for the menu board to display the calorie count for the entire pizza even though—according to the group—the average consumer eats only 2.1 slices.

In addition, the proposal requires posting a calorie range for foods that can be customized; the broad variety of pizza toppings makes such rules virtually useless, said the chains. They suggest their own online tools, such as Domino’s Cal-O-Meter, which enables people to plug in what they’re eating and get the calorie count, make more sense.

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