Senators Murkowski and Carper introduce bill to help Americans make smart and healthy choices when dining out
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WASHINGTON (Sept. 25, 2008) - U.S. Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today introduced the Labeling Education and Nutrition Act (LEAN Act), which would provide consumers with the tools they need to make educated and healthy decisions when eating at restaurants and chain food establishments across the country.
Today, more than 60% of American adults and 30% of American children suffer from obesity, which can lead to many chronic health risks, including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Recently, a small number of states and localities like California and New York City have taken action to fight this alarming trend by requiring restaurants to disclose nutritional information. Sens. Carper and Murkowski's legislation would seek to provide a national standard for nutritional disclosure of such prepared foods.
The LEAN Act would require restaurants and grocery stores that serve prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to disclose calories for each menu item so that consumers can see such information before they order their meal. Under the bill, calories will be posted directly on the menu, menu board or in one of the approved alternative ways, such as a menu insert or a sign directly next to the menu board.
"As a former governor, I know there are issues that can and should be handled at the state and local level, but healthy nutrition and obesity are national issues that cry for a national solution, and our bipartisan legislation provides a platform to gather everyone to the table and begin that national discussion," said Sen. Carper. "This bill is not going to magically solve our obesity problems, but I do believe we have a responsibility to give Americans, more and more of whom are eating outside the home these days, the tools they need to make healthy, educated choices."
"Today, America is facing an obesity epidemic which must be addressed swiftly," Sen. Murkowski said. "It's been nearly 20 years since the enactment of the Nutrition Labeling Education Act that requires all packaged foods to include nutrient information. However, there is not a comparable national standard for prepared foods. The LEAN Act will facilitate a national debate on the important issue of menu labeling and will raise a broader discussion on the importance of healthy lifestyle choices."
As a starting point for what the senators believe will be a nationwide discussion involving consumers, restaurants and public health groups, the senators introduced the LEAN Act to provide American consumers greater transparency in 11 nutritional items, including calories, sugar and sodium as well as a federal dietary guideline for the caloric intake for a typical adult.
"I look forward to working with my congressional colleagues, public health groups and restaurants to craft legislation that provides Americans with the information they need to make sound, healthy choices when eating out, while also providing chain and sit-down restaurants with a consistent way to provide this nutritional information to their consumers," Sen. Carper said.
"Our goal is to provide Americans with nutrient information so individuals can make educated nutritional decisions when dining out," Sen. Murkowski concluded. "This is why I invite all stakeholders to join us in the debate on greater disclosures in menu labeling and on placing a national focus on healthy eating and healthy lifestyle choices."
Labeling Education and Nutrition Act
The LEAN Act arms consumers with the nutritional information they need to make healthy choices while dining out that provides calories and 10 other essential nutrients at restaurants and other food service establishments.
Currently, more than 60 percent of American adults and 30 percent of American children suffer from being overweight or obese, which leads to many chronic health risks including diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. In the last 20 years, there has been a significant increase in the number of meals prepared or eaten outside of the home. When dining out, consumers want to have the nutritional information they need to be informed consumers and to make healthier choices for themselves and their families. The LEAN Act would provide transparency and consistency to consumers at restaurants.
The LEAN Act would require restaurants with 20 or more locations to disclose calories and nutritional information in one of the following ways:
Restaurants with Menu Boards
1. calories on the menu board
2. calories on an adjacent sign to the menu board
3. calories on a sign located in the consumer queue
? For calories posted on a sign located in the consumer queue— the sign must be at eye level, available prior to the point of sale and requires that a statement is provided on the menu board stating the suggested daily caloric intake is 2000 calories or an alternative statement as prescribed by the Secretary.
Restaurants with Menus
1. calories on the menu
2. calories on a menu insert
3. calories on a menu appendix
4. calories on a supplemental menu
? For calories listed on a menu insert, menu appendix, or supplemental menu— requires that a statement is provided on the menu stating the suggested daily caloric intake is 2000 calories or an alternative statement as prescribed by the Secretary.
The LEAN Act Requirements:
• All posted calories are listed in a clear and conspicuous manner prior to the point of purchase.
• Restaurants disclose additional nutrition information on the premises, in writing, and available to consumers upon request prior to the point of purchase.
• A referral statement is provided on the menu or menu board directing the consumer to where nutrition information (calories and 10 additional nutrients) is available.