Lawmakers: ObamaCare calorie rules won't prevent obesity

Lawmakers: ObamaCare calorie rules won't prevent obesity
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A controversial ObamaCare rule that requires restaurants to list the number of calories in the food they sell misses the mark, lawmakers said Thursday.

The Food and Drug Administration’s menu-labeling requirements are coming under attack on Capitol Hill as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle look to roll back the rules.

The calorie counting rules are supposed to help consumers improve their diets, but lawmakers questioned how effective they will be during a Thursday hearing.

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“We still have a problem with obesity in our country," Rep. Gene GreenRaymond (Gene) Eugene GreenTexas New Members 2019 Two Democrats become first Texas Latinas to serve in Congress Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 MORE (D-Texas) said. “We’re not going to stop people from eating what they want to. I’m going to go to Dominos or Dunkin’ or get enchiladas in Texas at one of our convenience stores."

The lawmakers were debating the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, backed by Reps. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersSocial determinants of health — health care isn't just bugs and bacteria Lawmakers deride FTC settlement as weak on Facebook Overnight Energy: Fight over fuel standards intensifies | Democrats grill Trump officials over rule rollback | California official blasts EPA chief over broken talks | Former EPA official says Wheeler lied to Congress MORE (R-Wash.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), which would curb the calorie-counting rules.

Restaurants would still be required to provide calorie counts for regular menu items under the legislation, but most grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations and movie theaters would be exempted.

McMorris criticized the requirements for taking a “cookie cutter” approach. She suggested restaurants and grocery stores should be regulated differently from restaurants.

Her legislation would also leave room for restaurants to provide their menu labels online as opposed to in the store.

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said this is an example of a “nanny state.”

"I don’t think I’ve ever in my life read a menu label,” Shimkus said. "I don’t think I’ve ever looked for calorie numbers on anything that I’ve consumed. And I bet that I’m in the majority of Americans."

The lawmakers suggested there may be more effective ways to help people lose weight and stay healthy.

"In other words, if what you do is sit in front of your TV and eat our food and that’s all you do, you will get fat. I don’t care what restaurant it is,” said Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.). "We’re not giving Americans the information: ‘Get off your butt, and move.’ ”

The FDA issued the controversial menu labeling requirements last November.

The National Restaurant Association is backing the menu labeling requirements as written, saying restaurants want to compete on a level playing field with other companies that sell prepared foods. 

But grocery stores and convenience stores say the rules will be nearly impossible to follow.

The pressure is growing on Capitol Hill as Republicans and some Democrats have come out against the rules.

A group of 32 senators is demanding acting FDA Commissioner Stephen Ostroff delay the rules until after the 2016 presidential election, which could give the next president a chance to block the rule altogether.

The top two senators on the Health Committee, Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderMcConnell tightlipped as impeachment furor grows GOP senator: 'Inappropriate' to discuss opponents, but impeachment a 'mistake' The revolution has arrived in college admissions MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Biz groups say Warren labor plan would be disaster Freedom of the press under fire in Colorado MORE (D-Wash.), are leading the effort to get the FDA to delay the rule. Murray says she supports the rule, but wants to give restaurants more time to comply.