How a Federal Menu-Labeling Law Will Harm American Pizza

January 16, 2013

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (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," says Baylen J. Linnekin, a lawyer and executive director of Keep Food Legal, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit.

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.

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.

  • Indeed, most have been providing nutrition information for years.
  • The Papa John's website, for example, 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, the CEO of Domino's 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.

"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.

Source: Baylen Linnekin, "How a Federal Menu-Labeling Law Will Harm American Pizza," Reason Magazine, January 5, 2013.

 

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