What’s the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2012?

Homer Simpson at a Kwikee Mart with a Hot Dog

photo: DCpages.com

If you are one of the millions of people who visit a quick serve food establishment every day, you most likely have noticed calorie counts on the menu boards.  Whether it is at Starbucks or McDonald’s, the calorie counts started to appear in New York, California and other locations around the country. As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Yes, Obamacare) the FDA was also given the power to mandate calorie labeling across the nation in any food establishment with over 20 branches, where at least 50% of the floor space is dedicated to selling food.

But while your Whopper at BK will be labeled 670 calories, a hot dog sold at Seven Eleven has yet to be labeled. That’s because convenience stores and supermarket delis view themselves differently that fast food joints. And to make sure the FDA won’t come after them, these corporations have lobbied lawmakers to help them out.

The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2012, a bipartisan effort, is trying to limit the FDA regulations from reaching convenience stores, supermarkets, and movie theatres. Representatives of the National Grocers Association explain that the proposed labeling requirements would subject retailers “to millions of dollars in new and unnecessary expenses and administrative burdens because of regulatory overreach.” A supermarket may sell thousands of ready to eat items, whereas a fast food joint sells only a few.

According to NACS – the association for convenience and fuel retailing – “Convenience stores and their food offerings vary greatly, based largely on their location and customer base” and so it would not be practical to require calorie labeling.

But Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who is thinking about consumers first, disagrees:

“Efforts to keep consumers in the dark are unnecessary and out of touch – according to a recent survey, more than 70% of Americans favor having movie theaters, convenience stores, and supermarkets list calorie counts for their prepared foods.”

Our take: Given the rise in obesity levels in the US, and the clear connection between excess calories and weight gain, it’s a no brainer that consumers should be informed just how many calories are in everything they consume. A calorie doesn’t care if it came from Kwikee Mart while you were fueling your Mazda, or from Taco Bell on the way home from basketball practice. Of course the retailers will oppose it, because it will cause some people to buy less. At the end of the day, it’s all about money.

What do you think? Is this a good move or just another example of a Nanny State?

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  • George Babbitt

    Good move if done willingly, bad move if made to do so by a nanny state.

    • Kevin

      How is it a bad move if forced? Should medications not be forced to disclose its contents or possible side-effects? Should we just roll-back all nutritional labeling guidelines because they are forced? Nonsense.

      • George Babbitt

        “Caveat Emptor” – Buyer Beware. It used to be that there was some responsibility on the part of the buyer, now all the burden is trending to being on the seller. I would love to know every single ingredient, element, chemical, process etc. that goes into what I would like to buy and eat, but we must remember that we don’t have to buy what we want. And we should not be entitled to buy whatever we want on OUR terms. The seller has rights too. We can make the choice not to buy. And who is so delusional to think that ready-to-eat foods are nutritious or free of artificial preservatives that maintain that nutritious state on a shelf? The government is broke because we want someone else to do all hard work of asking and demanding answers for what we purchase, not to mention all the other things that we want them to do for us, because we are to ?timid?lazy?privileged? to do it ourselves. Then we should accept the reality when we don’t get an answer or an answer we don’t like which means we don’t buy that item.

        • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

          Sellers and marketers are often able to trick consumers who may not be as sophisticated as you George. Have you ever seen a seller say a food is not healthy?
          Requiring sellers to be transparent about what they are selling makes perfect sense. And we need transparency now more than ever.

          • George Babbitt

            Of course we need transparency, but I know the largest reason that the Organic Olive Oil that I buy is twice as much as the Olive Oil I could buy is because of the dozen extra people along the way that certify that it is organic getting paid to do what I cant and/or wont.

    • Violet

      I tend to agree. I would LOVE it if all companies would volunteer to be as responsible as they can be (a moving target), and to constantly raise their own standards of responsibly offering products and services. I don’t really understand the mentality that something doesn’t get done unless someone is forced to do it. Just do it already! This doesn’t stop at food labeling, IMO, it extends into all aspects of business and public life. And on the other side of the exchange, as consumers and citizens we need to take responsibility to let businesses know we want information, and what information we want … repeatedly asking the management at the local convenience store about missing nutritional information, and letting management know you’ve decided to not buy something which isn’t labeled *because* it lacks nutritional information, might go a long way toward those chains “volunteering” to provide the info. If businesses need guidance on how to provide good information, certainly the government can offer assistance in figuring out how to do it, much like Extension Services help educate private producers in food safety, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jgelfond Jensen Gelfond

    Why would these establishments label their food willingly when they have spent many decades choosing not to? The only way a junk food convenience store like 7-11 (have you seen the kind of food they sell?) would label their food would be if they were forced to. And they should be in my opinion!

  • Honeyvore

    Calories and weight isn’t the most important people, you gotta be careful of What is in those calories, plus I do think consumers should be responsible, we all know if we get popcorn, skittles, and a large coke at a movie theature, it’s unhealthy. So what if I choose to be unhealthy? If I get fat it’s my own fault, my parents taught me my nutrition as I grew up, so how can I blame the theature for my own poor choices? The FDA should leave them alone, and if people are so upset about how unhealthy these places are and need a quick meal, cook at home or eat a lean cuisine. Plus apples make great snacks ^ ^

  • Pingback: News You Can Use – Aug 21-28 2012 « Eating Disorder Pro

  • chanelle

    It’s not about blame. It’s about accountability.

  • Katie

    Is the kind of person who is buying dinner at a gas station really going to be deterred by calorie counts? I think our money would be better spent getting real food into all markets than labeling these food-like products.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      1) Yes, for some people the calorie posting will be the extra little nudge needed to say no to an extra donut / soda. 2) It’s different money.

    • RCrown2

      I agree 100%! Well said!