The latest contention (there are so many) is what counts or what should count as a similar establishment. As expected, public health professionals, consumer advocates and restaurants want an inclusive definition and individual industries want to an exclusive one. The Food Market Institute, via its council Erik Lieberman, argues that grocery stores, for instance, should be excluded while myself, Rudd (Center for Food Policy), and CSPI argue that entertainment venues should be included and forced to comply.
The problem is two fold and related to the way similar has been defined. The FDA defines an establishment as NOT being similar to a restaurant if it serves the same type of food (like a prepared meal) but its primary business purpose is NOT the sale of food. From this definition it is clear how grocery stores get included and movie theaters and bowling alleys do not.
The issues I see are these:
- Grocery stores which sell food as their primary purpose provide predominently packaged products. Those products, even the ones sold in the deli and bakery, should be covered by the NLEA (1990). The ready to eat meals that they serve, well - I don't see the argument for not including them under the new law (2010). Just put the calorie counts on the steam table and order boards. I understand that the FMI is fighting being included in section 4205 of the ACA. What I find dubious is the argument that putting nutrition information on packaged cookies in the bakery is too burdensome. Those cookies were NEVER meant to be excluded from the original labeling law.
- Entertainment venues like movie theaters, sports arenas and bowling alleys sell precisely the type of foods that the new law was meant to address. They sell calorically dense, nutrient poor foods which are high in added sugar and saturated fats. These foods are associated with the rise of obesity in the USA and other countries. One strategy for reducing the rate of obesity in the USA is providing nutrition information at the point of purchase or sale. This should mean the place of ALL food sales. How much sense does it make to include a vending machine and not a cinema? We, as consumers, need nutrition information available to us at all the places we make food choices.
An article by Josh Long on a website called Food Products Design inspired this post.