Restaurant Industry, Consumer Watchdog Back Bipartisan Compromise on Menu Labeling
The National Restaurant Association (NRA) and the Center for the Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) have reportedly expressed support for a bipartisan compromise on menu-labeling legislation that would require chain establishments with 20 or more outlets nationwide to provide nutrition information on menus or menu boards. The revamped legislation apparently combines elements of the Menu Education and Labeling (MEAL) Act, sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and the Labeling Education and Nutrition (LEAN) Act, sponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.). The new bill would also exempt small businesses, as well as waive the labeling requirements for custom orders, temporary specials and items like condiments that are not listed on menu boards. In addition, a separate provision would entail “the disclosure of calories for food items on vending machines owned by individuals operating 20 or more vending machines,” according to a June 10, 2009, press release issued by Harkin.
“We know the importance of providing customers with the information they want and need in a consistent format no matter where they are across the country,” stated the NRA in response to the compromise, which has also been lauded by CSPI. “This legislation would replace varying state and local ordinances with a national standard that empowers consumers to make choices that are best for themselves and their families.” See NRA Press Release and Center for Science in the Public Interest Press Release, June 10, 2009.