August 7, 2014

“Hand-Me-Down” Menu Regulations Just Don’t Fit Convenience Stores

From: Roll Call

By Brad Call

Anyone with older siblings or cousins remembers the joys of “hand-me-down” clothes. They were a common-sense approach for Mom, of course. But somehow those outfits never fit right, felt right, or looked right — they sagged here and bunched up there, and certainly weren’t your favorite color or style.

Why? Because they were really meant for someone else — and not for you.

“Hand-me-down” is pretty much the same approach being taken by the Food and Drug Administration with new restaurant menu labeling regulations required by the Affordable Care Act. The agency’s proposed rules are a reasonable, though hardly perfect, fit for the big chain restaurants. These restaurants offer simple, standardized menus at all locations, Congress’s intent was to make sure those menus provide clear, understandable nutrition information.

But the menu labeling regulations don’t make sense at all for convenience stores, grocery stores, delivery operations and other approaches to food service.


Yet it’s not just the cost: the Office of Management and Budget has found that FDA’s proposed rules would take more than 14 million hours to comply with: one of the largest burdens of any regulation issued the year they came out. All this time and expense for the mere handful of prepared food items many convenience stores offer.

If the rules would make sure consumers were better informed and eating healthier at least that would help. Unfortunately, they won’t.

FDA’s own Preliminary Regulatory Impact Analysis could not quantify any benefits to the menu labeling regulations. That’s because some 95 percent of food items sold in grocery and convenience stores already display nutrition information. So $1 billion in costs and 14 million hours of time to comply — with no showing of benefit. Somehow that doesn’t seem like what Congress had in mind.

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