As more states and communities continue to draft their own menu labeling regulations, including California, Massachusetts and Maine, 21 limited- and full-service restaurant chains have asked Congress to enact broader national menu labeling legislation.
In a letter to members of Congress, released Friday, the restaurant chains endorsed federal efforts to require calorie labeling, but urged policymakers to adopt a more inclusive approach than what is under consideration for the House health care reform bill (H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act). The chains want an approach that provides calorie information to more consumers in more locations where prepared foods are purchased. The effort is supported by leading health and nutrition advocates.
The proposed legislative language would apply to fewer than 25 percent of the nation's restaurants – far below the number that consumers say is satisfactory. The legislation also would require only restaurant chains with more than 20 outlets to put calorie counts on menus and to provide customers with additional information upon request.
The group recommends setting a reasonable minimum financial standard for inclusion, such as $1 million in annual sales and/or applying the requirements to all chains with three or more locations, recognizing the need to exclude small businesses for whom labeling might be a hardship.
"The existing language exempts three times more restaurants than it includes," said Jonathan Blum, senior vice president of public affairs for Yum! Brands Inc., which includes Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silver's and A&W restaurants. "It's not necessary that 100 percent of food operations provide this information, but the current language requires only 25 percent of restaurants to label menus. That is an inadequate number. America's consumers deserve better."
Last year Yum! became the first national restaurant company to announce it would begin voluntarily placing product calorie information on their menu boards.
A recent public opinion poll conducted by KRC Research in June found that 71 percent of Americans believe that all restaurants should show calorie counts on their menus.
A number of health and nutrition experts have supported the concept of menu labeling to assist consumers in battling obesity.
Calorie counts can be calculated at nominal cost, and the legislation only requires that standard menu items carry the label – exempting daily specials or features – making the provision feasible for all but the smallest outlets, the restaurant chains said in their letter to Congress.
The restaurant chains that signed the letter to Congress include:
- Captain D's
- Cheddar's Casual CafÃ©
- Del Taco
- Domino's Pizza
- Donatos Pizza
- El Pollo Loco
- Figaro's Italian Pizza
- Jack in the Box
- Long John Silver's
- Papa John's
- Pizza Hut
- Pizza Schmizza
- Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen
- Qdoba Mexican Grill
- Sargo's Subs
- Taco Bell
- Texas Roadhouse
- Tumbleweed Southwest Grill
- Which Wich? Superior Sandwiches