Diet Plans And Calorie Calculators Nixed: FDA’s Menu Labeling Rules Voted Down By US House Of Representatives

Your diet plans and calorie calculators just got limited with the new menu labeling law. Postpone that restaurant trip, as you may not know how many calories go into your meal. The House of Representatives has approved a measure to amend the FDA’s restaurant menu labeling law, changing the formula used to determine calorie content.

The House approved H.R. 2017, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, is an effort to help provide clarity and flexibility to countless small businesses authored by Energy and Commerce Committee member and House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, according to a press release by the Energy and Commerce Committee.

In response to the menu-labeling rule from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that reportedly seeks to establish one-size-fits-all requirements on nutritional information, the present bill was introduced in April 2015. It was passed by a vote of 266-144-1 and claims to make the menu labeling requirements workable and helpful for consumers. It now goes to the Senate.

The legislation would reverse the Food and Drug Administration rules that went into effect last year, requiring restaurants to post calorie information on menus and menu boards.

McMorris Rodgers said, “Prudent, effective labeling standards don’t come in the form of one-size-fits-all rule set forth by unelected bureaucrats; this commonsense bill takes power out of D.C. and puts it back in the hands of consumers and small business owners. It’s a win-win.”

While debating on the bill, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton said, “We’ve got a classic example of the administration overreaching with a top-down, big government approach. Its impact is wide-ranging and will negatively impact local pizza joints, convenience stores, grocery stores, amusement parks, and movie theaters, you name it. The administration’s own estimates state this regulation could cost American businesses $1 billion to comply and 500,000 hours of paperwork. That’s a huge chunk of time and money that could be better spent hiring more folks, or creating an improved experience for customers.”

FDA's menu labeling rules overturned by US House
Pizza boxes sit stacked at a Domino's Pizza Inc. location in Murray, Kentucky, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Domino's Pizza Inc. sees U.S. consumers are "still cautious" as commodity costs rise, the company said on a quarterly conference call. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Giving the example of Michigan-based Domino’s, he illustrated how burdensome the regulations are. The pizza chain already has an online calculator that determines accurate nutritional information. Ninety-one percent of their consumers place orders online, making it unnecessary for Domino’s to have an in-store menu board. Besides, he claims, many consumers will never see the menu board as they are ordering by phone or online.

However, the national menu labeling law was passed as part of the Affordable Care Act in March 2010, with wide support from public health groups and restaurant industry. Lobbying by the Domino’s Pizza-led American Pizza Community resulted in delayed implementation, reported the Bloomberg.

Margo G. Wootan, the director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), explained the pros of the FDA’s menu labeling bill and the cons of Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act.

“Despite the clever name, this anti-menu labeling bill is neither common sense nor would it disclose additional nutrition information. It would result in consumer confusion and prevent disclosure of straightforward, consistent calorie information at many food service establishments. Menu labeling allows people to make informed food choices for a big and obesity-promoting part of their diets. Dozens of studies link restaurant meals to higher calorie intakes and obesity.”

She referred to a Harvard study that found restaurant menu calorie labeling could prevent up to 41,000 cases of childhood obesity and could save more than $4.6 billion in health care costs over 10 years. According to a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, eight out of 10 Americans support menu labeling.

Wootan said, “I have faith that the Senate will maintain the integrity of national menu labeling, which was built on an agreement between public health groups and the restaurant industry. Senators should listen to the eight out ten Americans who want menu labeling over the whining of Domino’s Pizza.”

The CSPI says changing the FDA’s menu labeling law would end up withholding nutrition information from consumers, limiting their ability to make informed choices.

[Photo by Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images]