Monday, July 25, 2011


Restaurants provide tasty foods and an opportunity to "eat out' providing relief to the families stressed out by the modern way of life. With very little time at their disposal due to the pressure of professional work, few families can afford to invest their precious time in the kitchen and eating out has become a way of life in many countries leading to explosive growth of the catering sector. Though it offers convenience, what is debatable is the quality of preparations served in most of the restaurants, especially from the health angle. Taste being the supreme "ingredient" of a product in an eatery, customers invariably have the tendency to binge on the foods forgetting the consequences of over eating. Besides the nutritional aspect of restaurant foods is never a consideration for both the caterer as well as the customer who patronize such joints. This is where the government steps in to regulate the industry in such a manner that necessary nutrition information about the products offered by them is provided to the customers, anticipating that such information will restrain them from indulging in foods not considered healthy. New menu labeling proposal that is sought to be made mandatory in the US has come in for some sharp criticism from the hotel industry and there may be some justification in viewing this proposal with serious concern..
"Our members strongly supported adoption of a national menu labeling law, and we look forward to the orderly implementation of these requirements," said NCCR Vice President Scott Vinson. "However, we have grave concerns regarding certain of the FDA's proposed interpretations of the legislation Congress passed and the President signed into law. We hope the FDA will carefully consider our comments and adjust the final regulations to be consistent with the statute." The National Council of Chain Restaurants has filed comments responding to menu labeling regulations proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), welcoming the proposal but asking for flexibility that would recognize differences between the restaurant industry and other foodservice sectors. In addition, the NCCR asked that the FDA modify its initial proposal to ensure a smooth program rollout to the diverse array of chain restaurant concepts and similar retail food establishments. According to the NCCR, the FDA's final regulations should incorporate a flexible approach in several key areas so that restaurants and other covered retailers are not burdened with unnecessary expenses and complexities, and consumers are provided information in ways that make sense and are easy to understand.In one example cited by NCCR in its 53 pages of comments, the FDA proposal includes an enforcement mechanism intended for the packaged food industry rather than the chain restaurant industry where food is prepared by hand and not machines. NCCR contends that the standard would be impossible for chain restaurants to comply with and would expose the industry's thousands of small business franchisees to massive legal liability.

A most important point that needs consideration is whether products made by different chefs will have same nutrient composition and if not how can the government expect each eatery to analyze its products to generate such information. Also of concern is whether the same preparation will have same composition every day and whether samples will have to be tested every day. The cost aspect in implementing this policy may become an important constraint with very few large restaurants being able to adopt the system. In stead of forcing the industry to strictly adhere to the law, a flexible regime would be more appropriate. Similarly wide latitude should be given in declaring the composition with variations allowed as much as 10-15% of the standard values shown on the label. Whether the customers will care for such information or the policy will have any impact on their health, is another matter, if the effect of labeling on packed foods in vogue for decades on the health of American consumers is any thing to go by!.

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