WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate supporters of competing menu-labeling legislation have come up with a compromise bill that has the support of the National Restaurant Association as well as public health groups.
The bipartisan legislation would require chains with 20 or more outlets to post calories on menus, menu boards and drive-thru displays.
The menus or menu boards would also be required to include a statement concerning suggested daily caloric intake and a statement regarding the availability of additional nutrition information. The information would include the content of trans fats, saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol, carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber and protein.
Custom orders and temporary specials would be exempt from the calorie labeling requirement, as would items not listed on menus or menu boards, such as condiments.
The legislation would replace varying state and local ordinances with a national standard. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who previously supported the Menu Education and Labeling (MEAL) Act and Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who previously supported the Labeling Education and Nutrition (LEAN) Act, crafted the compromise.
The main differences in those prior pieces of legislation is that the MEAL Act, supported by public health groups, did not require the national standard preemption but did require additional nutritional information directly on menu boards.
NRA president and CEO Dawn Sweeney said in a statement: "We thank the senators for their bipartisan leadership and for recognizing the importance of legislation that meets the needs of both the restaurant industry and our customers. We look forward to working with Congress to enact this legislation."
Public health group the Center for Science in the Public Interest said that the legislation's language is included among other prevention measures in the Affordable Health Choices Act, draft health-care reform legislation recently released by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
Mike Donohue, a spokesman for the NRA, told the Chicago Tribune that the association is "optimistic this will be passed in the Senate as well as the House and become law," even though the measure would be part of the contentious health-care reform legislation.