The National Restaurant Association urges members of Congress to co-sponsor the Labeling Education and Nutrition Act of 2008 (LEAN Act) which will provide a national nutrition labeling standard for foodservice establishments.
From New York City to the state of California, more and more cities, counties, and states are passing differing laws mandating that chain restaurants put calories and other nutrition information on menus. The result is a growing patchwork of regulation that is not helpful to the consumer and is harmful to restaurateurs, increasing expenses and leaving them open to frivolous lawsuits.
National Restaurant Association research has shown that Americans are seeking to eat healthfully when they dine out. While many restaurant chains have responded to this trend by offering nutrition information, state and local policymakers have reacted by passing menu labeling laws. Instead, the federal government should set a single national standard for nutrition-information disclosure for chain foodservice companies.
Such a uniform national nutrition standard will allow consumers access to detailed nutrition information that meets their needs while providing clarity, consistency and flexibility for restaurants in how that information is provided.
In September, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced the Labeling Education and Nutrition (LEAN) Act of 2008. Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) introduced companion legislation in the House. The bill looks to expand current packaged food labeling law to require a uniform national nutrition labeling standard for chain foodservice establishments, while providing a reasonable range of flexibility for the restaurant. While the LEAN Act would require a uniform national nutrition standard, the law also would provide for a single set of guidelines in how nutrition information is calculated and will provide legal protection for those restaurants that abide by the law.
As larger chain restaurants with standard menus and standard methods of preparation are better situated to meet such requirements, the LEAN Act would apply only to chains with 20 or more units.