Foodservice Equipment Reports

House Bill Advocates Curbing Calorie-Count Provisions On Menus

It isn’t just the cheese that stands alone. The pizza industry says it deserves an exemption to the menu-labeling regulations issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under the Affordable Care Act. And the pizza chains, supported by a few other industry groups, now have a bill on Capitol Hill.

The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, backed by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), would curb the requirements, which go into effect Dec. 1.

Under the proposed bill (now in committee), HR 2017, restaurants would still be required to provide calorie counts for regular menu items, but most grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations and movie theaters would be exempted. The proposed bill would allow restaurants where customers make most of their orders online or over the phone to solely change calorie counts on their website or primary menu board and not on every single flyer or handout. Additionally, a restaurant would have more leeway about how it presents calorie counts for menu items such as pizza, which can vary widely depending on different kinds of toppings. It would also give an additional two years for affected outlets to meet regulations.

Among those supporting the bill is the American Pizza Community (APC), a coalition of pizza franchises lead by Domino's Pizza; the National Grocers Association; and the National Association of Convenience Stores.

The APC says the new FDA regulation places an unfair burden on smaller franchise owners because it requires putting calorie counts on menu boards in addition to flyers or other handouts. The APC estimates that complying with the rules can cost a restaurant $4,000.

Others disagree. Because of the different combinations of crusts and toppings, “pizza is trying to position itself as being so different from other restaurants,” Margo Wootan, Director-National Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told ABC News. She pointed out that restaurants that sell smoothies or sandwiches deal with similar issues. “Providing nutrition information inside a pizza restaurant is as easy as printing a menu at Kinko’s.”

Wootan said that there likely would be little cost or extra burden for restaurants to add calorie counts to their main menu even if most people order from a drive-thru or over the phone. Restaurants could simply add a sticker to the existing board, Wootan noted, and if they have no main menu board they wouldn't need to add anything.

The National Restaurant Association backs the menu-labeling requirements as written, saying restaurants want to compete on a level playing field with other companies that sell prepared foods. 

The FDA has not commented specifically on the proposed legislation but said it would continue to work with the pizza industry and other affected outlets before the labeling requirements take effect this December.

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