The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) hailed legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate this week, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (S.1756), as a thoughtful approach to providing the necessary flexibility and understanding of convenience store foodservice operations. The bill is similar to legislation introduced in the House earlier this year.
“This legislation will allow the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to satisfy Congress’ objectives without unnecessarily burdening most convenience stores,” said NACS Senior Vice President of Government Relations Lyle Beckwith. “It treats restaurants like restaurants and convenience stores like convenience stores.”
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), signed into law in March 2010, includes a provision that calls for a national, uniform nutrition-disclosure standard for foodservice establishments.
Regulations implementing this provision, released in 2011, would create rigid requirements that pose an unreasonable burden on many businesses, particularly convenience stores. The proposed regulations would require chain restaurants, “similar retail food establishments,” and vending machines with 20 or more locations to provide specific nutritional information, including calorie-counts on menus, menu boards and drive-thru boards. Self-service items such as buffets and salad bars must contain caloric information “adjacent” to the item. Retailers would have to provide additional nutrition information in writing upon request.
The bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (I-ME) codifies a less burdensome approach to menu labeling and includes language addressing the types of retail locations that are covered by federal menu-labeling requirements.
Specifically, the legislation limits PPACA’s menu labeling provision to establishments that derive 50% or more of their revenue from food that is intended for immediate consumption or prepared and processed on-site. Prepackaged food would not be considered in this equation. Given that 17% of convenience stores’ in-store revenue dollars is derived from prepackaged food, according to the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2012 Data, most convenience stores would be exempt under the new legislation. Some convenience stores that have business models similar to those of restaurants, however, would still be covered.
For those convenience stores that would be covered by federal menu-labeling requirements, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act provides more flexibility with compliance. Retailers could select from several approaches in providing calorie information. For instance, pizza sellers could provide calories either per slice or for the whole pizza. The legislation also would allow retailers more flexibility in providing calorie ranges as opposed to a specific number, which is often more difficult to define with made-to-order food.
“Convenience stores and their food offerings vary greatly—even those that are part of the same chain—based largely on their location and customer base. This legislation provides retailers with the flexibility they need to communicate calorie nutrition information. More important, it sets realistic requirements for how businesses are classified under these regulations,” said Beckwith.
NACS has been actively engaged with the FDA during the regulatory process, ensuring that the agency understands the convenience store industry’s unique perspective on federal nutrition disclosure obligations.
“This legislation would allow FDA to meet the objectives of the menu-labeling law without unnecessarily burdening retailers that rightfully should be outside of its scope,” said Beckwith.