How a Federal Menu-Labeling Law Will Harm American Pizza

60aaseinfeld pizza How a Federal Menu Labeling Law Will Harm American Pizza

This week, as a new Congress was being sworn in, the Food and
Drug Administration
released two sets of controversial and long-delayed food-safety
rules.Another FDA rule that’s been long in the making is the agency’s
proposed menu-labeling rule.The purpose of that rule, first proposed
in 2010 as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,
is to “provid[e] information to assist consumers in maintaining
healthy dietary practices.”In 2008, California became the first state in the nation to
adopt a uniform menu-labeling law. The law had the backing of the
state’s restaurant association—a surprising turn of events until
one considers that chain restaurants in the state had been forced
to deal with an increasing number of varying menu-labeling rules in
municipalities throughout the state. With more and more states
adopting their own menu-labeling rules, the National Restaurant
Association adopted the California strategy and sought a shield
against this death by 1,000 cuts by pushing for one uniform
national menu-labeling rule. (I detailed this chronology in a 2010
Chapman University Law Review article, The “California
Effect” and the Future of American Food: How California’s Growing
Crackdown on Food & Agriculture Harms the State & the
Nation.)The delay in implementing the FDA’s menu-labeling rule appears
to have resulted, to the consternation of many in the food
industry, in an expansion of Congress’ original intent. As it’s now
constructed, the rule would apply not just to chain restaurants
like McDonald’s and Applebee’s but also to grocery stores and chain
pizza restaurants—both of which oppose the FDA’s plans. Nancy Huehnergarth, executive director of the New York State Healthy Eating and
Physical Activity Alliance, tells me she supports the proposed
FDA rule because it would provide information at the right place
and time.“The key to menu labeling and getting it to work is that people
see the calories at the point of purchase,” says Huehnergarth.Pizza chains, which have banded together to oppose the FDA’s
plans to have the rules cover them, have good reasons to chafe at
being included under the law.For one, most have been providing nutrition information for
years. The Papa John’s website displays
nutrition information under each menu item, for example, while
Domino’s website features a tool it calls a
Cal-o-Meter. For pizza, the point of purchase is most often
online or over the phone.In an op-ed published last year in The Hill, the CEO of
Domino’s, J. Patrick Doyle,
criticized the proposed rule as “a one-size-fits-all set of
rules for menu labeling that will result in wide calorie ranges for
entire pizzas on menus consumers will not even see, but will cost
small business owners thousands of dollars a year.”Those costs can range upwards of $5,000 per franchise location.
The cost to grocers—a cost that, as with pizza, would no doubt be
passed on to consumers in the form of higher food costs—would be
even greater.Why so costly?”With 34 million ways to make a
pizza, it makes no common sense to require this industry—which
already discloses calories voluntarily, for the most part—to
attempt to cram this information on menu boards in small
storefronts,” says Lynn Liddle, who chairs the
American Pizza Community, a coalition representing much of the
American pizza industry, in an email to me.To put that number of pizza choices in perspective, consider
that nearly every
single person living in Canada today could order an entirely
different pizza from Domino’s—where the chain is also popular.Opposition—from those like me who say the proposed rules go too
far and those who argue they don’t go far enough—has
slowed the FDA as the agency has sought to craft a final

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How a Federal Menu-Labeling Law Will Harm American Pizza

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