On House Floor, McMorris Rodgers urges Common Sense Menu Labeling

This morning, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) spoke up for consumer choice on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The House will vote shortly on her bipartisan legislation, which “makes it easier for customers to actually see and understand [nutritional] information because it’s displayed where customers actually place orders — including by phone, online, or through mobile apps,” McMorris Rodgers said. “By bringing this rule into the 21st Century, customers can trust they are getting the reliable information they need in an easy to access, consumer-friendly way.”

As Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has said, when you think of a salad bar in your local grocery store or the sandwich options available at the deli, imagine all of the possible combinations. Believe it or not, the possibilities are in the tens of millions if that location offers just 30 toppings.

For every creative sandwich, salad, or pizza combination, there’s a local store keeper or restaurant owner who makes it their mission to offer that choice to us their customers. We should be giving those small businesses “the freedom and the flexibility that they need to provide the best information to their customers.”

Click here to learn more about this legislation. Following are McMorris Rodgers’ remarks on the floor.

 

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Cathy McMorris Rodgers Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Speaker, I have an amendment at the desk.

The amendment I’m offering is simply a technical improvement that is non- controversial. 

Current law requires that restaurants and food establishments have a “reasonable basis” for how they determine the calorie count they ultimately disclose to their customers. 

Calorie counts, unlike a measure of weight – like “one pint” – or a quantity – like a serving size – cannot be measured scientifically with respect to each individual serving.  That means food establishments will likely never be able to inform their customers about precise calorie counts in any food item without a reasonable doubt.    

The amendment will provide the added flexibility that we want for food establishments to determine accurate nutrient disclosures by allowing for permissible variations like “inadvertent human error” while also ensuring businesses and their employees will not be criminally penalized.

Now, I want to address some of the concerns my colleagues across the aisle have raised about my legislation, H.R. 2017, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act.

This bill is not about the merits of calorie counts.

This bill does not remove the requirement for calorie counts on menus.                  

And this bill certainly does not make it more difficult for customers to receive nutritional information.

This bill, at its very core, is about flexibility.

In trying to create a uniform standard, the FDA’s rule attempts a one-size-fits-all approach to an industry as diverse as its ingredients.

Every deli and salad bar offering, every possible pizza topping combination, will soon have to be calculated and their calorie count displayed on physical menus.

This is problematic for two reasons.

First, the “made-to-order” portion of the food industry offers endless, constantly changing combinations of ingredients. For some sandwich shops and pizzerias, the possible variations are in the tens of millions.

The FDA wants these restaurants to put on paper all of these variations and their calorie counts, and have it publicly displayed in the restaurant. It’s an unrealistic use of these business owners’ time.

Second, digital and online ordering is customers’ preferred method of ordering. Nearly 90 percent of orders in some restaurants are placed without an individual ever stepping foot in the restaurant.

So tell me, how does it make sense to force a restaurant to have a physical menu with calorie listings when 90 percent of your customers aren’t going to see it?

And how does it make sense to force a customer to navigate millions of combinations to find the nutrition information that matches their order?

This legislation provides flexibility in how restaurants provide the nutritional information. It makes it easier for customers to actually see and understand the information because it’s displayed where customers actually place orders – including by phone, online, or through mobile apps.

By bringing this rule into the 21st Century, customers can trust they are getting the reliable information they need in an easy to access, consumer-friendly way.

It also protects small business owners and their employees from frivolous lawsuits and criminal actions that could be honest, inadvertent human error.

Accidentally putting too many pickles on a sandwich and increasing its calorie count shouldn’t be a criminal offense. 

This bill is about empowering the American people through their elected representatives to make their own decisions and pursue their own dreams.

And it’s all part of the choice we’re offering America as we move forward in 2016.

Before I close, I want to thank all of my colleagues and stakeholders – including the National Restaurant Association, which supports this amendment, and has withdrawn its previous opposition to the bill – for their hard work on this bipartisan bill.  Thank you, this was a team effort and I appreciate your support.

Finally, I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this important amendment and ultimately vote YES for the bipartisan Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act.

Thank you, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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