Proposed rule on nutrition labels draws fire, support

07/06/2011 11:20:00 AM
Tom Karst

The Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rule on menu labeling at restaurants and similar foodservice establishments drew widely differing reactions at the end of the proposal’s comment period.

The Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association expressed general support for the rule, while the Center for Science in the Public Interest asked the agency to strengthen the regulation.

In its comment to FDA, the NRA asked for a one-year implementation period rather than the six months allowed in the proposal.

The proposed rule was published April 6, and set out rules for standard menu items in certain chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments. The regulation implements the menu labeling provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 and requires disclosure of the total number of calories derived from any source, and the total number of calories derived from fat; total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber and total protein.

The comment period closed July 5, but the agency isn’t expected to complete work on the regulation by 2012.

In the proposed rule, the FDA requires restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are a part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name, and offering for sale the same menu items, provide calorie and other nutrition information for standard menu items, including food on display and self-service food.

In a news release about its comments to the FDA, the NRA asked for greater flexibility for operators in how they present nutrition information.

The NRA also asked the menu labeling rules also apply to similar retail food establishments. That was one point of agreement with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

In a July 5 news release, the Washington D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest and more than 80 national state and local organizations said the FDA’s proposed rule doesn’t go far enough. In particular, the group told the FDA not to exempt nutrition labeling for foods sold in movie theaters, casinos, bowling alleys, stadiums, hotels, airlines and superstore delis.

The group also asked the FDA to require alcoholic beverages to be labeled.

Congress required calorie labeling for all items on the menu and did not exclude those beverages, the group said.

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that the rules are stacked against traditional restaurants.

“Many of the foods sold in the venues that the administration has proposed exempting are similar to foods that will be labeled in restaurants,” Wootan said in a news release.



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