From Mr BlueMauMau: On Thursday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn), introduced a legislation, the Menu Education and Labeling or MEAL act, that requires chain restaurants to post information on calories on menu boards and food displays. The bill requires chains to also identify fats, carbohydrates and salt content and make them available on printed menus.

The Los Angeles Times writes what is pushing these labeling bills across the country.

“Consumers play an impossible guessing game trying to make healthier choices in restaurants,” said Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Who would guess that a large chocolate shake at McDonald’s has more calories than two Big Macs or that a multigrain bagel at Dunkin’ Donuts has 140 more calories than a jelly doughnut?”

In contrast, a number of associations and corporations in the restaurant industry are lobbying for a competing bill, the Labeling Education and Nutrition or LEAN act, H.R. 1398 (full text of bill). Supported by the Dunkin’ Donuts Independent Franchisee Association and Dunkin’ Brands, the bill follows California and Massachusetts in requiring chains with 20 units or more to post calorie counts. The LEAN act would nullify existing state and local labeling laws. A single federal law would be easier and less costly for national chains to follow than diverse statutory and municipal label requirements now popping up throughout the country.

Last year, the previous 110th Congress did not pass the federal MEAL bill.

Blue MauMau