calories

Regulations under the Affordable Care Act that would require calorie disclosure and nutrition data on food served in restaurant chains and food retailers is at the center of a controversial Senate debate.

Petitioning the FDA are senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (I-ME), asking the agency to “amend the calorie disclosure requirements enacted under the Affordable Care Act to exclude grocery stores and other related businesses,” reports Food Navigator.

Currently, the “Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants” stipulation in the ACA requires that retail chain restaurants and markets with 20 or more locations that serve prepared foods list foods’ nutrition data including total caloric content, where it’s readily accessible for customers to review before purchasing.

But the senators, who have piggy-backed their Senate bill 1756 to House bill 1249 (Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act), suggest that the cost of complying with the Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants would make it more difficult for supermarkets to make the changes because “restaurants have uniform menus and suppliers, whereas supermarket café and deli menus change daily and often supply themselves,” Food Navigator reports.

Supporting the amended version of the bill is the National Grocers Association, an industry-led organization made up of the nation’s largest supermarket chains. “We don’t operate like restaurants, and that’s why states and municipalities don’t regulate us,” Erik Lieberman, regulatory counsel for the Food Marketing Institute told Food Navigator.

Consumer health, though, is reliant on education and transparency when it comes to prepared and processed foods. The Center for Science in the Public Interest and 80 organizations including the American Heart Association have urged the FDA to follow through with the original draft menu labeling guidance. “We need to change the landscape in our country so that people being informed about they’re consuming is commonplace,” Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association told Food Navigator. “If we narrow that to only include restaurants, it becomes a burden. We should make it commonplace so it’s expected of everyone—then consumers will be able to make informed decisions everywhere.”

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