The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and the National Grocers Association (NGA) filed a petition with FDA to delay the effective date of a rule on food labeling.
The petition, dated April 5, called for FDA to delay the effective date of May 5 and rewrite the menu labeling rule, seeking to delay the Food Labeling; Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments final rule and asked FDA to reconsider the section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The final rule requires that restaurants and food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations disclose calorie and other nutrition information for standard menu items, including food on display and self-service food. The rule indicates that "covered establishments" include chains with 20 or more locations, regardless of the type of ownership, including individual franchises, provided the locations offer substantially the same menu items.
However, the two associations argued that the rule itself wasn't clear enough. NACS said in a release:
"The petition requested the stay and re-evaluation because of the confusion the final rule and its guidance create and of how much compliance would cost non-restaurant retailers. NACS and NGA pointed out in their petition that agency staff can't provide clarification on such questions as the distinction between a menu (which would require calorie data) and an advertisement or marketing piece (which would not). Instead, the staff 'admitted that they had not made determinations on these kinds of very basic compliance questions.'"
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) took a strong stance on the petition, arguing that other retailers are disclosing nutritional information. According to Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy at CSPI:
"If Nathan's Famous can clearly disclose calories for hot dogs, so should 7-11 and supermarkets that sell them. Au Bon Pain, Panera, and Publix supermarkets are already labeling their muffins and other baked goods; other chain supermarkets and convenience stores can too."