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February 19 2014

Food Fight

Patrice J. Lee

ObamaCare is full of new regulations and measures to exert greater control over our lives. One requirement aims to fight obesity and make Americans healthier but will actually sicken restaurants and small businesses with new costs and regulatory burdens.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is close to releasing new rules that would force all restaurants to post nutritional information on their menus and on vending machines. The un-Affordable Care Act mandates that calorie labels be posted at vending machines, restaurants and similar retail food establishments to help consumers make healthier choices and discourage obesity.

But a bipartisan congressional coalition of a dozen lawmakers is starting a food fight against these new overbearing labeling regulations.

The Hill reports:

…the group of 24 lawmakers said the draft regulations, which apply to restaurants with 20 or more locations, go beyond Congress’ intent and would create painful new expenses for certain businesses, including delivery joints and eateries that specialize in made-to-order dishes

… 

The lawmakers pressed the FDA to limit the scope of the regulations, which they say would harm small businesses that are already complying separately with the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act.

Pizza places and grocery stores in particular have complained about the draft standards, saying they would be all but impossible to maintain. For instance, there are 34 million different combinations of pizza toppings, according to an industry trade group. It’s impractical to require that they list calorie counts for all of the options, they say.

The lawmakers, led by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), are pushing legislation that would limit the scope of the menu rule to businesses where food service is the primary source of revenue, allow delivery restaurants to post their nutritional information online and allow firms to choose between multiple approaches for labeling made-to-order items.

Nutrition labels are not new. They were voluntary until 1990 when the FDA required nutrition labels for most prepared and packaged foods. Over the past few decades the labels have undergone some changes, but they are standard practice. There is dispute over whether posting the nutritional value actually affects behavior with studies supporting both sides. We don’t need to argue the merits here.

The real issue is the burden and costs that these new regulations are placing on small businesses. The Administration is conveniently placing the emphasis on making individuals healthy, but the people who will be harmed are our pizza shops and diners. These small businesses comprise our nation’s economic engine and job creators.

Imagine your neighborhood pizza shop will now be required to post the nutritional value of each pizza pie. This is extremely difficult if not impossible, because each pizza is made to order. Each pie features dizzying combinations of toppings of different quantities that would be difficult to create specific calorie counts. For instance, Dominoes Pizza offers at least 31 topping options.

Not only is this mandate administratively difficult, there are real costs associated with compliance. The ObamaCare labeling regulation for vending machines, which requires nutrition information be posted beside each slot of candy bars, chips, peanuts and cracker-jacks, are estimated to cost $25.8 million initially and $24 million annually.

It’s a positive sign when members of Congress actually come together to correct their mistakes and pull back on the reins on government. Although their efforts will not repeal these regulations, they would limit the scope of the new rules and offer restaurants greater flexibility in implementing them.

With ObamaCare, Congress passed a sweeping bill that introduces a slew of new regulatory burdens under the guise of reforming healthcare. As ObamaCare’s harmful effects on the economy, job market, health insurance industry, and individual healthcare coverage continue to emerge, we see clearly that the architects and proponents of this bill took neither care nor consideration for how Americans and American business would be hurt. Apologies over broken promises and spinning bad news do nothing to repair the damage done. At least this is one step in a better direction.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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