Supermarkets and restaurants are different. Yes, they both sell food – but why call for “consistency” across all retail food establishments without calling for restaurant foods to have the same information that foods sold in our supermarkets do?
With due respect to two of the most effective and respected people to have served our country as Secretary of Agriculture, I have to point out that their position on extending a national menu labeling standard to supermarkets would create more confusion and problems than would solve.
First off, the loophole that this law was attempting to close was created when restaurants were previously exempted from the National Labeling Education Act. The products that fill our grocery store shelves, an average supermarket carries over 35,000 foods and beverages, already carry detailed nutritional information on over 95% of the products; including calories, types of fats, sugars, sodium, protein, as well as other vitamins and minerals. In addition, unlike restaurants, these packages also include detailed ingredient, country of origin and allergen information. Information that empowers shoppers to make informed nutritional choices.
Supermarkets and restaurants are different. Yes, they both sell food – but I must wonder why the Secretaries are calling for “consistency” across all retail food establishments without calling for restaurant foods to have the same information that foods sold in our supermarkets do?
Supermarkets, unlike chain restaurants, do not take a cookie-cutter approach to the prepared foods they sell. A chain restaurant develops a sandwich or meal in a test kitchen over a period of weeks or months, then, internally or externally analyzes it for labeling, ingredients, nutritionals. A supermarket chef cooks freshly made prepared foods daily, often based on the foods and ingredients available that day – sometimes determined by the seasonality of the produce in that store. Or the produce department cuts fresh pineapples, or other fruits and vegetables, in the store and packages them for the convenience of their shoppers.
It is impossible to build “mini-labs” in every supermarket in the nation. The cost and time to analyze these foods would frankly drive our supermarkets away from preparing and selling these foods – which shoppers today demand and enjoy. Let’s not force fit legislation as a quick fix, or to make headlines – lets take look at every food establishment for what they are, what they can do, and what the shopper wants and what will empower them to make the correct nutritional decisions.