Sen. Carper & Murkowski Introduce Bill to Help American Make Smart and Healthy Choices When Dining Out

WASHINGTON 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.”