NACS, NRA Comment on FDA's Proposed Menu-Labeling Regulations

Differ on whether convenience stores should be included

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) has submitted comments to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) on the agency's proposed menu-labeling regulations. Among other requirements, the proposed rules would require most convenience store chains with 20 or more outlets to post calorie counts on menus and next to self-service food items, and also have additional nutrition information available to consumers upon request. The group commented that c-stores should not be covered by the menu-labeling regulations.

The National Association [image-nocss] of Convenience Stores also suggested how the proposed rules can be improved should they ultimately cover c-stores.

More than anything, enhanced clarity is imperative if the FDA hopes to achieve its objectives, NACS said.

The association commented on the following topics: Why convenience stores should not be covered. The proposed rules would cover retail establishments that are a part of a chain with 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, that sell "restaurant or restaurant-type" food where "the sale of food is the primary business activity of the establishment." NACS recommended that the definition of a "covered entity" be limited to establishments where more than 50% of revenue (including motor fuels sales) is derived from the sale of restaurant or restaurant-type food (excluding pre-packaged food, which already contains nutrition information). Conversely, should the FDA consider floor area devoted to food sales as an appropriate measurement (rather than revenue), then the definition should include floor area devoted to food sales in relation to the establishment's total floor space (including space devoted to selling motor fuels). Requirements for covered establishments. The proposed definition of covered "Variable Menu Items" versus exempt "Custom Orders" creates confusion and NACS is asking the FDA to clarify its intent. Self-serve beverages. NACS is asking the FDA to allow calorie counts to be displayed based on ounces, which would provide uniform information throughout all establishments. Self-service food on display. FDA should revise its proposed rules to allow calorie information to be posted on the door of a display case, or at the "head" of a self-service table or counter, rather than adjacent to each individual food item. "Primary" menu boards. If there are multiple menus in a single store each offering the same food items--the store should be permitted to select the "primary" menu that calories must be disclosed.

Click hereto read NACS' full comments.

Meanwhile, the National Restaurant Association (NRA)--a primary advocate for the menu labeling law, passed in March 2010--also has filed its comments regarding the FDA draft menu labeling regulations.

Comments included: Flexibility with nutrition disclosure. As written, the law requires nutrition information to be provided in a clear and conspicuous manner. The diversity and complexity of the restaurant industry make providing nutrition information to consumers far more complicated than it may seem on the surface. Greater flexibility is needed in order for operators to present information in a format and manner that works for their operation and customer. Similar retail food establishments. The NRA strongly believes that the FDA should treat not only restaurant chains but also "similar retail food establishments" the same. The FDA should interpret this term broadly to encompass most locations where consumers regularly consume away-from-home food. Reasonable basis standard. The NRA calls for the FDA to follow congressional intent, captured by statute, that restaurant operators use the "reasonable basis" standard. The reasonable basis standard has been recognized by the FDA for 20 years in determining nutrition calculations required by the law, rather than a standard used for packaged foods produced in a food processing facility. One-year implementation timeframe. Rather than a six-month timeline that the FDA proposed, the NRA believes that given the challenges and costs associated with creating new menus and menu boards, a one-year implementation period will help restaurants more effectively absorb the additional burden (with many of the franchisees impacted being small-business owners).

Click hereto read the NRA's complete comments.

Under the law, nutrition information and calories on the menu and menu board will be available in more than 250,000 restaurant locations nationwide.