Nutrition Labeling Liability for Pizza
In March of 2016, I waited in the waiting room of a hospital while a good friend had a long and complicated thirteen-hour surgery. At one point, I decided to buy something to eat from the hospital cafeteria. A plethora of food items to choose from, pizza was one of them. The pizza was set out for self-service. They were charging $1.50 a slice. Plus, I saw a bonus. There was a huge slice available. The huge slice seemed to be a great value, compared to the smaller slice right next to the bigger one.
Then I noticed a nutrition board next to the displayed pizza. At the bottom of the board was the food service management’s consulting company logo. The company that formulated the nutritional information for the hospital’s pizza. The nutritional information included the total calories, fat grams, sodium, carbs, and protein for slice of pizza. The intent of the hospital by disclosing the nutritional content for their employees and visitors is commendable. I actually paid attention, which helped me make an informed decision. By advertising the nutritional information, a consumer, like myself, can make an informed and healthier decision, right? Not with this case. As the picture from this article shows, the portion for each slice were not even close to being similar in size and shape. It is also obvious from the picture, that none of the slices of pizza were remotely close to the advertised calories and nutrition content displayed on the nutrition board.
So what could happen if someone, took a picture of a poorly cut pizza from this hospital’s cafeteria that sell pizza, along with the advertised nutritional values and posted the picture on a social network, like facebook? Could the picture cause public embarrassment, ridicule and lack of credibility for the hospital? Could the hospital be sued for falsely advertising the nutritional values of the slices of pizza? What about the nutritional labeling company who may not have recommended to their client to use a pizza cutting guide to make sure the slices were cut into equal portions? Especially since the nutrition labeling company is paid by the hospital for sampling, testing, analyzing and formulating the calories for their clients. Plus, as in this case, being the same company that printed and displayed the poster board, which included their corporate logo, could they be exposed to a liability lawsuit? Sounds ridiculous right? All over a couple of unequally cut slices of pizza?
In February of 2016, Subway settled a class action lawsuit which they settled for over a half a million dollars (which does not include their legal expenses). All over some evidence that showed their advertised footlong sandwiches, measured slightly less than twelve inches. Is it not too farfetched to think something similar will happen to the pizza industry?
The new FDA menu labeling standards is scheduled to go into effect May 1, 2017. While companies affected by the law incorporate their menus for compliance, consumers will be exposed to greater nutritional awareness with quick service food items like pizza. So will their awareness with inaccuracies. Businesses who sell pizza and are required to comply will not only need to focus on the calorie content of their pizzas, they will need to concentrate with portioning the serving size much more accurately and equally. There are pizza cutting guides available for the pizza industry. At leat one, the Portion PadL, can be made for portioning round, square and sheet pizzas. Using a pizza cutting guide, like the Portion PadL, will more accurately and consistently cut equal pizza slices and greatly reduce the risk of a social networking nightmare and the potential for civil lawsuits for false advertising, which could be financially devastating for any pizza related business.
Follow Up: A few days later, after my friend’s thirteen-hour surgery, I went back to visit him at the hospital. After visiting him, I stopped by the cafeteria to show the head chef the pictures I took of the unequally cut pizza and the nutrition display board resting right next to the unequally cut pizza. I explained to her how the hospital was falsely advertising the nutritional information when the slices are improperly cut into unequal portions. The chef thanked me for pointing out this oversight. Fifteen minutes later, I received a phone call from her boss. He too thanked me for pointing out the issue. The purpose for his phone call was to purchase a Portion PadL. Now the hospital is selling equally portioned slices of pizza that accurately represent the nutritional information being advertised beside the pizza.
I also contacted the foodservice company who was hired by the hospital to accurately calculate the nutrients for their pizzas . They are one of the top fifteen foodservice companies in the country. They didn’t seem to care.
So where do nutrition consulting company responsibilities end with pizza? Just at the content analysis stage or through the portioning process? Could there be a liability exposure for not consulting through the portioning process?