Among its many business-unfriendly rules, ObamaCare instituted new and stringent requirements that step up menu labeling for anyone who serves or sells food. From gas stations to pizza joints, the new regulations are creating heartburn-inducing burdens for businesses. The rules are set to go into effect by the end of this year,
But a coalition of Republican and Democratic members of Congress is fighting back. Two top senators on the Health Committee are leading an efforts to get the FDA to delay the menu labeling requirements and demanding that Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner delay imposing the killer regulations until after the 2016 election.
In a letter to the commissioner, the 32 senators cite as a reason for such a delay the lack of clear direction from the FDA on many key aspects of the far-reaching regulations, which would require food businesses with more than 20 locations to list the number of calories in the prepared food they sell. They note, “While we recognize the benefit of improved access to nutritional information for consumers, we are concerned that the lack of clear and consistent guidance from the agency will make it difficult, confusing, and burdensome for businesses, particularly smaller businesses, to implement the new requirements by the December 1, 2015.”
Health advocates oppose a delay, but are willing to go along with it if they have assurances that the labels will get before consumers as soon as possible. They say consumers will benefit from the menu labeling requirements because they would have access to more information about the foods they eat.
As we reported late last year, the regulation will require replacing menu boards or adding the calorie counts to those that exist. It’s a nightmare trying to figure out how many calories are in the servings of the items they offer given that no unpackaged meal is exactly the same.
The Hill reports:
The top two senators on the Health Committee, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), are leading the effort to get the FDA to delay the rule.
The senators say restaurants and other food establishments “need appropriate time to budget and plan accordingly to meet the rule’s requirements to provide nutrition information to consumers that is understandable and clear,” according to a letter sent to Ostroff.
“While we recognize the benefit of improved access to nutritional information for consumers, we are concerned that the lack of clear and consistent guidance from the agency will make it difficult, confusing, and burdensome for businesses, particularly smaller businesses,” the senators wrote.
This comes after Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) introduced legislation last month in the House that would chip away at the menu labeling requirements.
The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act would exempt most non-restaurant businesses from the rule by making sure the labeling requirements only apply to companies that make more than 50 percent of their revenue from selling prepared foods.
The legislation has 15 co-sponsors, most of whom are Republicans.
If let to stand as is, the rule would impact grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, entertainment venues, movie theaters, amusement parks, bowling alleys, miniature golf courses and other businesses that sell “restaurant-like” food.
Delaying the requirements in that hopes that the next President will find a way to block the rule altogether is good gesture, but a risky bet. It might help a candidate who supports the regulations by delaying the pain and financial costs. And there’s no guarantee that the next president will want to overturn the rule.
We shouldn’t have had the rule to begin with, but thanks to all of the regulations stuffed into the Affordable Care Act, Congress delivers yet another stomach ache.
We’ll see if the FDA bends and delays the requirements until next year. That is hardly a win though, because it just delays the pain.