Bill introduced for nutritional disclosure standards

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — Senators Tom Carper of Delaware and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska on Thursday introduced legislation that, if passed, would require restaurants and grocery stores that serve prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to disclose calories for each menu item .

According to the senators, the Labeling Education and Nutrition Act (LEAN Act) "would provide consumers with the tools they need to make educated and healthy decisions when eating at restaurants and chain food establishments across the country."

The senators’ push for a national standard for nutritional disclosure comes in face of several states and localities taking action on their own. California and New York city are just a few of the places that have stepped-up nutrition disclosure requirements.

Under the LEAN Act, calories would be posted directly on the menu, menu board or in one of the approved alternative ways, such as a menu insert or a sign directly next to the menu board, the senators said.

"As a former governor, I know there are issues that can and should be handled at the state and local level, but healthy nutrition and obesity are national issues that cry for a national solution, and our bipartisan legislation provides a platform to gather everyone to the table and begin that national discussion," Mr. Carper said. "This bill is not going to magically solve our obesity problems, but I do believe we have a responsibility to give Americans, more and more of whom are eating outside the home these days, the tools they need to make healthy, educated choices."

Ms. Murkowski added that while there has been policy in place to monitor packaged foods labeling, there has not been a similar policy in place for prepared foods.

"The LEAN Act will facilitate a national debate on the important issue of menu labeling and will raise a broader discussion on the importance of healthy lifestyle choices," Ms. Murkowski said.

Jack Whipple, president of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, applauded the introduction of the legislation, calling it "a good starting point" for helping consumers make informed decisions in restaurants.

"The LEAN Act is a better approach than other alternatives and would create a universal, national standard for nutritional disclosure, which is strongly needed."

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