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NCCR Files Comments on FDA Menu Labeling Regulations

For Immediate Release
Contact: J. Craig Shearman (202) 626-8134

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NCCR Files Comments on FDA Menu Labeling Regulations

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2011 – The National Council of Chain Restaurants today filed comments responding to menu labeling regulations proposed by the Food and Drug Administration, welcoming the proposal but asking for flexibility that would recognize differences between the restaurant industry and other foodservice sectors. The comments, due after a 60-day period for public review of the FDA’s proposal, represent the work of dozens of chain restaurant companies that spent countless hours in an effort to provide the agency with comprehensive recommendations for a workable, consumer-friendly menu labeling program.

“As the leading voice on behalf of chain restaurants, NCCR encourages the FDA to continue its work on this important rulemaking, and we urge that the final rule allow for flexibility, workability and clarity for chain restaurants and consumers alike,” NCCR Executive Director Rob Green said.

“Our members strongly supported adoption of a national menu labeling law, and we look forward to the orderly implementation of these requirements,” NCCR Vice President Scott Vinson said. “However, we have grave concerns regarding certain of the FDA’s proposed interpretations of the legislation Congress passed and the President signed into law. We hope the FDA will carefully consider our comments and adjust the final regulations to be consistent with the statute.”

In one example cited by NCCR in its 53 pages of comments, the FDA proposal includes an enforcement mechanism intended for the packaged food industry rather than the chain restaurant industry where food is prepared by hand and not machines.  The standard would be impossible for chain restaurants to comply with and would expose the industry’s thousands of small business franchisees to massive legal liability.

In addition, the proposed regulations construe Congress’ menu labeling requirement too narrowly, exempting outright movie theaters that serve food, and also possibly excluding convenience stores, grocery stores, and other establishments that serve food intended for immediate consumption. The sponsors of the menu labeling legislation intended a level playing field for all establishments that serve restaurant-like food, so consumers would have access to nutrition information under a common program nationwide. NCCR believes the FDA should clarify that the menu labeling requirements apply not only to chain restaurants, but also to other similarly-situated foodservice establishments serving food that consumers eat right away.

Finally, NCCR asked that the FDA modify its initial proposal to ensure a smooth program roll-out to the diverse array of chain restaurant concepts and similar retail food establishments. The agency’s final regulations should incorporate a flexible approach in several key areas so that restaurants and other covered retailers are not burdened with unnecessary expenses and complexities, and consumers are provided information in ways that make sense and are easy to understand.

The National Council of Chain Restaurants is the leading trade association exclusively representing chain restaurant companies.  For more than 40 years, NCCR has worked to advance sound public policy that best serves the interests of restaurant businesses and the millions of people they employ. NCCR members include many of the country’s most well-respected quick-service and casual-dining establishments. NCCR is a division of the National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade group. www.nccr.net