Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Obamacare calorie rules brewing trouble for craft beer makers
Obamacare regulations could be brewing up trouble for small breweries wanting to grow.
Beginning next year, restaurant chains with more than 20 locations nationwide will be subject to new rules requiring calorie information on all menus. Restaurants will have to measure menu items made in-house, but when it comes to products such as beer — which are manufactured elsewhere and distributed to chains — the data must be shipped with the product.
Brewers are facing the prospect of spending potentially thousands to determine calorie counts for every variety of beer produced. Unless they spend the money to provide the information, breweries may never get their products into chain restaurants, like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee’s.
As is often the case with regulations, smaller breweries stand to lose the most.
“A regional craft brewer or a major brewery can spread the cost over a much larger volume of sales and it’s not so unreasonable for them,” said Paul Gatza, a former brewer who now heads the Boulder, Colorado, based Brewers’ Association, an industry group.
“Smaller guys that are just trying to sell a keg or two here or there, they have a decision to make on whether it is worth the additional cost to try to get their beers into chain restaurants,” Gatza told Watchdog.
The Food and Drug Administration is in the process of finalizing menu labeling rules that were part of the Affordable Care Act. Intended to make Americans more aware of their dietary choices, the rules are subject to controversy on several fronts, and the FDA announced in September that implementation of the new rules would be pushed back one full year, until December 2016, as the feds try to work out the kinks.
The new regulations also will apply to grocery and convenience stores, bowling alleys, movie theaters and sports venues — severely curtailing where some beers are sold.
The menu labeling requirement is hitting businesses across the entire food service industry. By the Obama administration’s official estimate, the new requirement will cost businesses as much as $1.5 billion.