House Passes Revised Menu Labeling Rules

Chances of passage are slim, but legislation to change the Food and Drug Administration’s menu-labeling requirements made it through the House last week and now heads to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain. The Obama Administration opposes the measure.

The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015 (H.R. 2017) would allow a foodservice establishment to post nutritional information exclusively on its website if the majority of its orders are placed online, would clarify that Facebook advertisements are not menus, and aims to protect establishments from being sued for human error.

The legislation was proposed by Republicans who say the FDA’s calorie labeling rules, scheduled to go into effect this year, are too burdensome. The new rules require restaurants and other establishments that sell prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to post the calorie content of food “clearly and conspicuously” on their menus, menu boards and displays.

The bill would instead allow restaurants and retail food establishments to choose how the calorie information is displayed—?either in the whole standard menu item, or the number of servings as determined by the establishment and number of calories per serving, or the number of calories per the common unit.” The legislation also seeks to ensure that operators aren’t penalized for mislabeling due to inadvertent human error.

The Obama Administration said the bill “would reduce consumers’ access to nutrition information and likely create consumer confusion by introducing a great deal of variability into how calories are declared.”

The menu labeling rules, due to kick in in December, were first required by Congress in 2010, but FDA took several years to write them as the supermarkets, convenience stores and pizza companies aggressively lobbied against them.

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