Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Spare Our Menus from Bureaucratic Overreach

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Spare Our Menus from Bureaucratic Overreach

Article excerpt

The FDA is completing new regulations for adding calorie labeling on restaurant menus, mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Although we support providing consumers with increased access to nutritional information, the agency's proposed regulations are expensive and ineffective.

Fixing this could benefit tens of thousands of restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores that otherwise would be burdened with regulations that will be costly and stymie job creation.

The Food and Drug Administration's menu-labeling proposal would require, for example, pizza-delivery restaurants to label in-store menu boards with calorie information, even though the vast majority of orders are placed by phone or over the Internet.

This would force small businesses to spend thousands of dollars for on-premise menu boards that roughly 90 percent of customers would never use in making an ordering decision.

Moreover, customizable offerings -- salads and sandwiches, for instance -- can be configured in innumerable variations, complicating the task of labeling menu boards. To address this, the FDA has proposed the use of calorie ranges setting lower and upper bounds for all possible variations of a particular order. The problem: The ranges can be so wide -- conceivably as much as 2,000 calories in the case of a pizza -- that they are useless in providing consumers with helpful information.

Smart alternatives exist but aren't permitted by the FDA's proposed regulations.

Websites and smartphone apps, which customers can access anytime and anywhere, wouldn't meet the FDA's planned standards. Rather than promoting innovation, the agency will require restaurants to maintain calorie labeling of in-store menu boards, even if the menu boards are rarely consulted by most customers, and in-store nutrition brochures are available.

Given the rapid growth in Internet access and smartphones, the FDA should develop guidelines to permit online compliance.

The FDA's approach also represents regulatory overreach. As part of its rule-making process, the agency has proposed that grocery and convenience stores be subject to menu labeling, even though those businesses aren't mentioned in the underlying law approved by Congress. …

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