Congress Begins Fight against Obamacare’s Menu Labeling Mandate

One of the many burdensome parts of the President’s health care law is a mandate requiring menu labeling. In implementing this provision, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established a rigid 400 page, one-size-fits-all rule demanding that restaurants and retail food locations install at least one standard menu board displaying the price and calorie count of each individual item. This goes well beyond what the statute originally intended and will result in dramatic increases in spending for small business in order to comply with the new regulations.  

In response, the House Energy and Commerce Committee recently held a  hearing examining H.R. 2017, “The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015.” H.R. 2017 would provide real relief for tens of thousands of grocery stores, restaurants and convenience stores through new guidelines, with which companies can reasonably comply, and amended regulations.

Sonja Yates Hubbard, the Chief Executive Officer E-Z Mart Stores, Inc., testified before the committee on behalf of the National Association of Convenience Stores . She explained that H.R. 2017 would provide “retailers greater flexibility to comply with federal menu labeling requirements in a manner that minimizes unnecessary compliance burdens without compromising consumers’ ability to receive nutrition information.”

Similarly,  when testifying on behalf of the American Pizza Community, Lynn M. Liddle stated:

FDA regulations require that you have to “certify” at both the corporate and the individual store levels that you have listed all the correct calories in all the correct places, and that you could face criminal penalties should you do this wrong. And what about class action lawsuits if a teenage pizza‐maker is a little heavy‐handed with the cheese, and the slice doesn’t match the listed calories?

Sadly, it’s not just class-action suits that pizza-makers might have to worry about. Without the reforms in H.R. 2017, food preparers could face felony charges for any deviations from the posted menu. Consumers will also suffer fallout from these costly new rules as increased overhead is necessarily passed onto them through higher food prices and decreased selection.

President and CEO of The National Grocers Association (NGA) Peter J. Larkin explained further how hard it would be for businesses to comply with the rule and serve the best interests of their customers:

Independent supermarket operators are uniquely tied to their communities and have a deep understanding that consumer demands vary from community to community. Many prepared food items sold in their stores are not standardized, but rather tailored to the community, and recipes, even for the same item, may vary from store to store based on customer demand.

The hearing made clear that adhering to the new guidelines will do more than simply cost jobs and raise prices for consumers - imposing a new one-size-fits-all regime on an industry that celebrates the creative will upend the typical patron-purveyor relationship. Without swift action on the part of Congress to enact H.R. 2017, “the customer’s always right” will soon be “Washington’s always right.”