DeLauro wants calorie counts on the menu

U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) called on the Obama Administration to issue a final rule on menu labeling. DeLauro and Harkin were the chief sponsors of menu labeling legislation for nearly a decade, and authored the provision in the Affordable Care Act that is resulting in chain restaurants across the country coming clean about how many calories are in their food.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register in 2011. Since then, the draft has been stalled at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

DeLauro and Harkin worked with the restaurant industry and the public health community to craft the bipartisan provision, and consider it a crucial step in helping prevent chronic disease, a press release said.

“FDA’s proposal differs in at least two material respects from the intent of the Affordable Care Act, and the proposed rule itself actually invites comment on several alternative interpretations, suggesting there may be some confusion,” DeLauro and Harkin wrote to OMB Director Shaun Donovan.

The two focused their comments on two areas: the definition of “restaurant or similar retail food establishment” and “reasonable basis” which concerns “the method by which food establishments are expected to determine the nutrition content of their foods.”

The proposed rule would exempt businesses like grocery stores and movie theaters from posting the calorie count of their foods. However, that is in direct opposition to congressional intent, as outlined by DeLauro and Harkin, who wrote: “Congress intended the scope of the disclosure law to extend to movie theaters, bowling alleys, bookstore cafes, and other like establishments, which is the very reason Congress used the phrase and similar retail establishments in the statute to extend the reach of the law beyond restaurants.”