The trade group for Domino’s, Papa John’s, and other big pizza chains is fighting to throw out Food and Drug Administration regulations that will soon require restaurants to display calorie counts on their menus.
The American Pizza Community — which lobbies for Domino’s, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Godfather’s Pizza, and Little Caesar’s — argues the calorie display mandate will be labour-intensive and costly.
“What I don’t want to do is put ranges that consumers will not understand and make my small businesses pay for it,” Lynn Little, executive vice president of communications for Domino’s Pizza, said in a Congressional hearing last week.
Little said that listing calorie ranges for a single slice of pizza, as the FDA has suggested, doesn’t help consumers because toppings, crust, and other options vastly change the calorie counts for a single slice.
Pizza and grocery chains are some of the last holdouts against nutritional labelling rules mandated under the Affordable Care Act. According to The New York Times, after Obamacare passed in 2010, the pizza industry helped delay FDA regulations requiring all restaurants with over 20 locations to disclose calorie counts.
Pizza chains are a particular concern for some nutritional advocates, who point out that the classic US dish a has long been one of the largest sources of calories in Americans’ diets.
“If any restaurants need nutrition labelling, it’s pizza restaurants,” Margo Wootan, the nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said at the hearing last week.
According to nutritional information on the pizza chains’ websites, two slices of medium pepperoni pizza range from 460 at Papa John’s to 600 at Domino’s. One slice at Domino’s pizza with a “hand-tossed” crust, however, has between 120 and 230 calories. A McDonald’s Big Mac is 530 calories.
Domino’s has been particularly outspoken in its opposition to the new regulations.
Last month, the pizza company released a “man-on-the-street” video where a Domino’s
spokesperson asked customers if they liked certain parts of the FDA’s regulation. The video shows customers backing up the pizza chain’s position, with one calling the FDA’s regulations “crazy.”
“There’s no way that that would be possible. That would be obnoxious, costly, annoying,” a customer tells the spokesperson.
The company maintains its customers don’t even use the in-store menu board and it would be a waste of time and money to list calories. Some Republican members of Congress backed up the company’s position in the hearing Thursday.
“I don’t think I’ve ever looked for calorie numbers on anything I’ve consumed. And I bet you I’m in the majority of Americans,” Rep. John Simkus (R-Illinois) said. “This is the perfect example of nanny state, of a national government telling individual citizens and saying what is best for them.”
The FDA isn’t requiring the pizza chains to list every possible combination of pizzas, only calorie ranges based on the available toppings.
The number of Americans who eat out has crept up in recent years, and regulators hope the calorie listings will help Americans eat more healthily when they’re not cooking for themselves.
It’s still unclear whether providing calorie information actually changes eating habits. Advocates for labelling often point to a 2008 study showing that Starbucks customers ordered food with 6% fewer calories when provided with nutritional information. Other studies have disputed these findings, showing that access to calorie information probably doesn’t change habits in the short-term.
Domino’s and other pizza chains have proposed mandatory online calorie lists since most customers order online or over the phone. In fact, Domino’s
online portal already has nutritional information and a calorie counter that allows customers to calculate the number of calories on their pizza.
Papa John’s is a slightly different story. The chain has conspicuous gaps in its online nutritional information, omitting the nutritional information for certain pizzas, which users have to click through several pages to find. For instance, health nuts are out of luck if they’re interested in the nutritional information for Papa John’s chip-covered “Fritos-Chilli-Pizza.” Similarly, Godfather’s nutritional information is available on a separate PDF on its website away from where consumers would go to buy pizza.
Dominos hasn’t gotten much sympathy from other food industry groups. As the Huffington Post
points out, a spokesperson for Dunkin’ brands who was also at the hearing recalled the apprehension that Dunkin’ Doughnuts expressed before similar regulations went into effect in New York City.
“I remember sitting around a table just like here today, and saying we can’t do this, we can’t do it. We did it,” Karen Raskopf, chief communications officer for Dunkin,’ said.
The American Pizza Community did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
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