ObamaCare's Menu Labeling Regs Hike Costs and Stifle Creativity

The American Pizza Community, a coalition of the nation’s largest pizza companies, regional chains, and small franchise operators, is supporting passage of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Ace of 2012, a bill to reform the new menu labeling regulations that have been included in ObamaCare. According to President Obama’s own Office of Management and Budget, the menu display requirements of ObamaCare rank as the third most burdensome statutory constraint enacted that year.

For the pizza industry, the new regulations require cumbersome and costly menu boards that must contain calorie information for each variety of whole pizza that is prepared in the restaurant. Ironically, however, customers of many pizza establishments will never even see the elaborate menu boards, which could cost about $5,000 per location, since most generally call in a delivery order without ever stepping foot inside the restaurant. Increased costs for menu boards are likely to be passed on to customers.

The regulations for the menu boards are so detailed that pizza shop owners must comply even with font sizes of lettering used, as dictated by the FDA. New products, changes in prices, or the addition of new pizza toppings would require the purchase of a new menu board. In addition, a proposed new product would have to be shipped to a lab for testing and certification at a cost of about $500.

Jennifer Hatcher, a senior vice president for the Food Marketing Institute, which represents 26,000 retail food stores, said, “It forces you into a central kitchen. It eliminates creativity and regional variation.”

The American Pizza Community, which includes widely familiar pizza companies such as Domino’s, Godfather’s, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Cici’s, Little Caesar’s, and others, states that while it is “not seeking an exemption from menu labeling,” it does support a “uniform standard that makes sense for our unique product, business model, and customers.”

The onerous regulations would fine a pizza shop owner, and open it up to frivolous lawsuits, if an employee, for example, inadvertently placed an extra slice of cheese or pepperoni on a whole pie, thus changing the exact calorie count for that pie as indicated on the menu board.

Regarding the proposed legislation to untangle the regulations for pizza restaurants, convenience stores, and grocery delis, Congressman John Carter (R-TX), who introduced the bill, said:

The rules the government now seeks to impose on pizza alone would force these guys to wallpaper their stores with calorie information on every possible combination of toppings, while the majority of their customers order delivery over the phone and never come in – and that’s crazy. So is trying to force convenience and grocery stores to meet the same labeling requirements as a restaurant.  But the threat of fining a business because a teenage employee put two extra slices of pepperoni on a pizza goes from crazy to scary.

The bill proposes that delivery and take-out restaurants be permitted to post calorie information on their websites and that calorie-per-slice labeling, instead of whole-pizza only totals, be permitted. In addition, if passed, the legislation would protect pizza shops from having to publish calorie data for millions of possible combinations, and instead provide average totals.


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