200496 Nutrition labeling in chain restaurants: Increasing knowledge and decreasing waistlines

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 1:30 PM

Kathleen Hoke Dachille, JD , University of Maryland School of Law, Baltimore, MD
In 1990, Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), which requires nutrition labeling on virtually all food products. Studies have shown a significant positive impact on consumer food choice as a result of mandatory labeling. Attendees will be provided with resources that support the positive impact of the NLEA. Restaurants are exempt from the mandatory nutrition disclosures. The rate at which consumers regularly eat at chain restaurants or bring food home from such establishments has been increasing in the last two decades. At the same time, chain restaurants have added menu items that purport to be healthy options yet are laden with fat and calories. Studies show that consumers vastly underestimate the fat and calories in standard menu items at chain restaurants; indeed, even educated nutritionists underestimate the fat and calories in such items. Attendees will be provided with resources that support these statements. Relying on the success of the NLEA, public health advocates should work toward mandatory labeling for restaurants. Such a law can contain a variety of elements; attendees will learn about those elements and discern which would be present in the perfect law and in the law likely to pass in many jurisdictions. To that end, attendees will learn about voluntary efforts and the position of the major chain restaurants in the US and successful and unsuccessful effort at such laws in various jurisdictions. Attendees will be provided with concrete steps that may be taken to secure passage of a restaurant menu labeling law at the state or municipal level. Although federal legislation is a possibility, Congress' slow movement on public health measures creates doubt about short-term success at the federal level. But if many state and local jurisdictions enact such provisions, the restaurant industry may seek a uniform national standard. Attendees will be educated on how to evaluate a federal law to insure the law will have a positive public health impact and not replace state and local law with a watered-down version. Attendees should leave the room educated about existing research and the elements of an effective restaurant menu labeling law and enthusiastic about pursuing such legislation in their city or state.

Learning Objectives:
Explain the impact nutrition information on restaurant menus will have on public health; Design a menu labeling law that will achieve public health gains with minimal objection from the restaurant industry; Advocate for effective nutrition labeling at chain restaurants

Keywords: Nutrition, Law

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Public health advocacy at state and local level for more than 7 years; taught public health advocacy for 7 years; conducting legal research and review of relevant issues.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.