Dems urge bold action on O-Care calorie counts

A pair of congressional Democrats pressed the White House Friday to move forcefully on regulations requiring calorie counts on restaurant menus. 

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed rule mandates labels on restaurants, “similar retail food establishments” and vending machines to combat obesity by helping consumers make healthier choices.

The regulations, a requirement of the Affordable Care Act, were first proposed in 2011 and drew hundreds of public comments. The proposal remains under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

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Meanwhile, dozens of lawmakers have argued that the FDA’s proposed rule goes beyond congressional intent, warning that the new restrictions would saddle pizza chains and other restaurants specializing in made-to-order dishes with major new costs. 

But Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) are pushing back against that contention, arguing that they essentially wrote the provision, which was based on legislation they’d championed for nearly a decade.

Harkin and DeLauro say the proposed rule doesn’t go far enough. 

The regulations, they say, were meant to apply not just to restaurants but to all manner of businesses that sell food, including movie theaters, amusement parks, bowling alleys and miniature golf courses. 

The proposed rule, though, limits the new restrictions to businesses that use at least half of their floor space for the preparation, purchase, service, consumption or storage of food.

“As drafted, the definition in the proposed rule excludes many retail food establishments that Congress intended to cover in providing consumers with more information about the nutritional content of the food they buy and consume,” Harkin and DeLauro wrote in a letter to OMB Director Shaun Donovan. 

The lawmakers also take exception with the proposal’s language governing the way restaurants determine the nutritional content of their foods.