Nationwide state legislators and local officials continue to push menu labeling regulations even as the U.S. House and Senate work on health-care reform legislation that include provisions for a national policy.

Recently, Montgomery County, Md., a suburb of Washington D.C., passed such a bill, and now New Jersey legislators are considering regulations for that state. If approved, New Jersey would become the fifth state to pass a menu labeling law.
 
On Dec 10th, the New Jersey state Senate passed a bill that would require restaurants with 20 or more locations nationwide to post calorie information for food and beverages on menu boards, according to a story in The Star-Ledger.
 
From The Star-Ledger:

Chain restaurant owners and Republican legislators called the bill unnecessary because the House and Senate versions of the health care reform bills include very similar menu disclosure requirements. (Sen. Joseph) Vitale said he wanted consumers to have the information sooner than the two to three years it would take for the health care bills to be implemented.
 
If approved by the state Assembly and governor, the bill would go into effect a year after it was passed. Operators who failed to comply would face fines of $50 to $500, with the higher fee for subsequent offences.

Proponents of the menu labeling bill maintain that it will “provide consumers with information that can assist them with their food choices if they care to use it, not unlike most product labeling in our grocery stores,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale, one of the bill’s sponsors.  The bill now goes to New Jersey’s General Assembly.

 Critics include chain restaurant owners and some Republican lawmakers, who counter that the law would be too expensive for franchisees.

“We don’t believe that menus should be used for public-service announcements,” said Deborah Dowdell, president of the New Jersey Restaurant Association. “They are marketing tools and should be maintained as such.”

They also say that the state law is unnecessary, because the U.S. House and Senate versions of the health-care bills include similar menu labeling requirements. The legislation being considered by Congress would pre-empt all state and local regulations.

DDIFO lobbied in Massachusetts for the State Department of Health to hold off implementing a menu labeling requirement until the US Senate and House passed national menu labeling.