Fighting Foodservice Folklore

FARE speakers implore operators to stay proactive on legislative and social issues

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- With nutrition, immigration and food-safety legislation looming, as well as social causes such as sustainability, foodservice operators must get on the offensive, said panelists at the "Mandates, Regulations& Social Causes" general session of CSP's 2009 Foodservice at Retail Expo (FARE). Education and a proactive stance are key to not being steamrolled by advancing issues, they said.

The US Department of Agriculture and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) are the "usual suspects," said panelist Lou Cooperhouse, director of Rutgers Food Innovation [image-nocss] Center at Rutgers University. But operators should also pay attention to local, state and county legislation and whether or not their mandates supersede national laws.

For example, one menu-labeling bill currently in committee, the LEAN Act, is a comprehensive, nation-wide law that would eliminate any state and local regulations. Another bill, the MEAL Act, also in committee review, would not supersede existing state and local laws. Which one, if either, is signed into law would affect operators from city to city, state to state.

At the same time, there are a slew of third-party regulatory bodiesfrom ISO to ServSafe to NSFthat further add to the patchwork of industry rules and standards. And Wal-Mart has recently taken it to the next level with self-regulation. It is requiring its tens of thousands of suppliers to fill out a survey on its carbon footprint, so the retailer can monitor the carbon footprint of its products through an electronic indexing system.

Be it industry-wide or within one company, the benefit of self-regulation, said Cooperhouse, is it allows the industry players to set the standards before the government does for them. The downside, as evident in the recent peanut-butter crisis, is the murky waters of accountability.

The best way to navigate the maelstrom, said Cooperhouse, is to partner with government, trade associations, academia and industry experts voice your opinion and stay abreast of the issues.

Fellow panelist Andy Revella, president of The Cookery & Food Institute, urged operators to abolish the "folklore that has plagued our industry for generations."

First, he said, get educated on food safety, nutrition, taxation and other issues affecting foodservice, and then "ask the question behind the question." Think about the "unintended consequences" of regulations, laws and mandates and how they may affect your business and customers.

[Pictured (left to right): Andy Revella, Lou Cooperhouse; (foreground): Ira Blumenthal.]

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
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