Sens. Carper & Murkowski Introduce Bill to Help Americans Make Healthy Choices When Dining Out
WASHINGTON (March 10, 2009) – Giving American consumers more nutritional information about the menu items at chain food restaurants is the goal of the Labeling Education and Nutrition (LEAN) Act, introduced today byU.S. Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
The LEAN Act would require restaurants and grocery stores that serve prepared foods at 20 or more locations to provide consumers calorie information for each menu item. Under the Carper-Murkowski bill, calories will be printed directly on a menu, menu board or in one of the approved alternative ways, such as a menu insert or a sign next to the menu board.
Both senators stressed that today more than 60 percent of American adults and 30 percent of American children suffer from obesity, which can lead to many chronic health risks, including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. In 2007, 63 percent of Delawareans were overweight or obese. Recently, a small number of states and localities have already taken action to fight this alarming obesity trend by requiring restaurants to disclose nutritional information.
“Healthy nutrition and obesity are national concerns that cry for national attention, and our job is to give consumers the tools they need to make smart choices in their everyday lives,” said Sen. Carper. “This bill is not perfect, but we are seeing already that it is sparking serious conversations that will bring all the public and private interests to the table to hammer out a bipartisan agreement on a national standard for nutritional information disclosure.”
“Today, America is facing an obesity epidemic which must be addressed at the national level,” 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. I believe the LEAN Act, which has bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, will facilitate a national debate on the important issue of menu labeling and raise a broader discussion on healthy lifestyle choices. Let’s not delay any further on passing a uniform measure for menu labeling."
More specifically, the LEAN Act would 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. The legislation is supported by the National Restaurant Association and the Coalition for Responsible Nutrition Information.
“I am encouraged that in this new Congress, working with my congressional colleagues, public health groups and restaurants to craft legislation, we can find a common sense solution that will provide 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 share this nutritional information with their consumers,” Sen. Carper said.
The Delaware Restaurant Association said: “We greatly appreciate the bipartisan commitment of Senators Carper and Murkowski to provide a reasonable and uniform nutrition information standard for chain restaurants and consumers.”
Other bipartisan Senate co-sponsors are Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
A companion bipartisan LEAN Act was introduced this week in the House of Representatives by Reps. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.).