Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Flaws with National Menu-Labeling Legislation: The LEAN Act endorsed by National Restaurant Association!

Senators Tom Carper, D-Delaware, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska re-introduced a federal menu-labeling bill called the Labeling Education and Nutrition Act (LEAN Act) in the Senate on March 10, 2009 along with Reps. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Fred Upton, R-Mich, who introduced their version of the bill in the House in the same week.

The bill would require restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets to make nutritional data available for customers at point of purchase instead of requiring restaurants to post caloric information directly next to menu items. Though the bill would be helpful for consumers who are already health-conscious it would fail to reach out to less-informed and less-educated consumers, which is what The DC MEAL Act (as well menu-labeling legislation in other localities around the nation) strives to accomplish.

The DC MEAL Act would require chain restaurants to post caloric information next to menu items to serve as a constant reminder to consumers of just how many calories are in menu items they are ordering. The LEAN Act fails to reach out to the most vulnerable population at risk for obesity- those who are less health-conscious and less-informed about how to make healthy choices.

Interestingly, the National Restaurant Association, which has strongly opposed menu-labeling legislation in the past, has been quick to voice its support for the LEAN Act. This is a weak bill that would preempt state and local menu-labeling laws. It seems to be more beneficial for other parties rather than consumers facing an obesity epidemic.

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