The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has submitted comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in response to its industry draft guidance on the agency’s chain restaurant menu labeling rule. FMI, on behalf of the supermarket industry, seeks from FDA common-sense flexibility for the regulation constructed for use in chain restaurant environments but which does not translate effectively or efficiently to providing nutrition information to consumers in a grocery store setting.
FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin stated: “From the minute the final rule was released in December of last year, FMI members have continued to struggle with a large number of unanswered questions as to how a regulation intended for chain restaurant operations can apply in a grocery store setting. Perhaps the most significant challenge for supermarkets in the context of a 395-page menu labeling rule designed for a different business model is that in the supermarket context, the issue isn't about menu labeling at all. To the contrary, for grocery settings, what we’re really talking about are the challenges associated with applying these menu nutrition labeling rules to items that don’t even appear on a menu or menu board. Our members’ need for flexibility and additional time is due to the challenge of trying to label hundreds and in some cases thousands of items in the supermarket that aren’t even listed on a menu or menu board.
"Some of the issues FMI is asking FDA to address are simply distinguishing ‘restaurant-type’ items from foods that are part of a grocery store’s everyday operations; allowing some flexibility for use of menu boards adjacent to a salad bar instead of individually labeling each individual item; and outlining the guidance and training process for enforcement under the rule. FMI members are committed to providing nutrition information to their customers and have done since the early 1990s when the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act was signed in to law, a law from which the restaurant industry sought and was granted exemption. FMI will continue to work with FDA to ensure grocery stores have flexibility to continue to meet their customers’ needs in a way that works in a supermarket setting."