Leah Barkoukis
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Thanks to the FDA’s menu labeling provision in ObamaCare, which targets restaurant chains and grocery stores, consumers may soon have to pay a little more at the checkout counter.

The proposed regulation would require store owners to label prepared, unpackaged foods found in salad bars and food bars, soups and bakery items. Erik Lieberman, regulatory counsel at the Food Marketing Institute, said testing foods for nutritional data will require either expensive software or even more costly off-site laboratory assessments.

Lieberman said failure to get it right comes with stiff penalties: "If you get it wrong, it's a federal crime, and you could face jail time and thousands of dollars worth of fines."

The proposed labeling requirement is meant to “aid consumers in selecting more healthful diets,” but according to Lieberman, “the evidence that menu labeling has any significant impact on public health is scant” and “no study shows any link to reduction of obesity rates.” Considering it will cost the grocery industry more than $1 billion to implement the regulation —it’s clear that by expanding menu labeling to include grocery stores, the FDA has gone too far.  

Townhall had the opportunity to sit down with representatives from the Food Marketing Institute and the American Pizza Community in November to discuss the impact the menu labeling regulation will have on their respective industries. FMI’s Director of Government Relations Robert Rosado explained that given the already high commodity and energy prices facing the grocery industry, the internalization of all the costs has gone as far as it can. In other words, this will mean higher prices for consumers, layoffs, stores scaling back their offerings or having to close altogether.

Moreover, in the FDA’s cost-benefit analysis of the proposed rule, the "benefit" is left blank, he explained. “They can’t make any kind of quantitative or qualitative link to menu labeling and dietary habits [that lead] to decreased obesity or lower health costs.”  

He continued, “Unfortunately, by taking a very broad and prescriptive approach they’re [FDA] unnecessarily harming businesses and it’s a tough environment right now.” 

The FDA said Wednesday it has received hundreds of public comments on the proposal and will take them into consideration when finalizing the regulation. It is likely to be released later this spring, and the agency says it will "include a final economic analysis."

FMI is strongly urging the FDA to "exclude grocery stores unless the majority of their business is derived from restaurant-type foods." Without making these common-sense changes, however, the proposed regulation will hurt small business owners and consumers and do little, if anything, to improve public health.

 

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Leah Barkoukis

Leah Barkoukis is the Assistant Editor at Townhall.com/Townhall Magazine.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography