Senator Harkin and Representative DeLauro plan to introduce the MEAL Act next week. Supporters of the bill are hustling to bring cosponsors on to the bill so that is has a strong introduction in Congress.
The restaurant industry has its own restaurant labeling bill, the LEAN Act which some feel is designed to distract members of Congress from meaningful menu labeling and would cancel out all existing state and local menu labeling policies. Most public health organizations oppose that industry bill. Personally, I have mixed emotions.
Having represented the restaurant industry as a lobbyist for many years, I typically oppose any measure that would handcuff our restaurateurs and create more government redtape. On the other hand, it sure would be easier to calculate my weight watchers points if I knew the particulars. Also, there are people will serious dietary restraints that NEED TO KNOW.
My friend Shirley is sending the following letter to her Congressmen and Senators and suggests you consider doing so if you feel strongly about this issue.
Subject: Please cosponsor the MEAL Act!
Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],
I urge you to cosponsor Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Rosa DeLauros’s Menu Education and Labeling (MEAL) Act, which would provide nutrition information on chain restaurant menus and menu boards. Menu labeling would allow Americans to make informed choices and take responsibility for their diets when eating out.
This bill is very much in demand, as Americans eat out more and are increasingly concerned about health and nutrition; 78% of people support menu labeling.
Without menu labeling, who can tell that a TenderCrisp Chicken Sandwich (790 calories) at Burger King has more calories than a Whopper (670 calories), or that a large chocolate milkshake at McDonald’s (1,160) has more than double the calories of a Big Mac (560)?
Finding nutrition information in a restaurant shouldn’t be a scavenger hunt. The information should be in the same place in each restaurant- on the menu, where people are already getting the other information they nee d to order, like product descriptions and prices. When nutrition information is posted on websites, tray liners, or brochures, customers (like myself) can’t find the information or use it at the point when we are deciding what to order.
The MEAL Act, sponsored by Representative DeLauro and Senator Harkin, would provide nutrition information on chain restaurant menus and menu boards where it is easy to find and use. The MEAL Act is supported by major health organizations.
The restaurant industry-supported LEAN Act would undermine the purpose of providing nutrition information, which is to give consumers easy-to-use, easy-to-locate information at the point of ordering. The most significant difference between the MEAL Act and the LEAN Act is that under LEAN, nutrition information would not be required to be posted on the menu. Restaurants would have the option to post information through a variety of formats that people rarely see. LEAN also would overturn existing menu labeling policies and prevent other states and localities from passing restaurant labeling policies. The LEAN Act is supported by the restaurant industry, but most health organizations and experts oppose this legislation.
I urge you to cosponsor the MEAL Act and oppose the LEAN Act. Thank you for your time and please let me know if you will cosponsor the MEAL Act.