Thursday, October 30, 2008

Beware Industry Coalition (CRNI) Claiming to Support Nutrition Information On Menu Boards

A new coalition of state restaurant associations, state retail associations, chain restaurants and industry groups have formed to support the LEAN Act, legislation introduced by Senator Tom Carper, Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Congressman Jim Matheson. The legislation will permit fast food and chain restaurants to provide calorie and nutritional information in places other than on the menu board or the menu. It permits the use of menu supplements or sign on walls. The legislation also preempts more stringent state and local laws that mandate calorie counts be next to prices and food descriptions on menu boards. If passed, New York's successful menu board law would become void. So would California's. The watered-down federal standard offered by industry would prevail.

The Coalition for Responsible Nutrition Information’s (CRNI) web site is (

Coalition members include Auntie Anne's Pretzels, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Brinker International, Burger King, Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, Darden Restaurants, Domino's Pizza, Dunkin' Brands, Grocery Manufacturers Association, International Dairy Queen, International Foodservice Distributors Association, International Franchise Association, McDonald's, National Chicken Council, National Council of Chain Restaurants, National Fisheries Institute, National Franchisee Association, National Restaurant Association, National Turkey Foundation, OSI Restaurants LLC., Sonic, and White Castle.

Some coalition members have donated substantial sums to the legislation’s sponsors.

CRNI’s press releases have been pciked up by Meat & Poultry News, Food Product Design, Drinks Media Wire, Food Equipment News, Fresh Talk, Pizza Marketplace, Nation’s Restaurant Association, Let’s Talk Franchising, and Chain Leader magazine.

It seems the coalition’s unstated goal is to prevent a mandate requiring calorie counts directly on menu boards and menus. It never mentions the MEAL Act ( a competing proposal supported by actual health organizations that would specifically require calories on menus and menu boards and that would permit enforcement of more stringent state and local laws.) The coalition wants to prevent state and local jurisdictions from mandating that calories be disclosed where people will actually read them.

Mandatory menu board disclosure as proposed in the MEAL Act is supported by Public Citizen, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the American College of Preventitive Medicine, the American Diabetes Association, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, the Medical Society of the State of New York, the Trust for America’s Health and many, many others.

The CRNI lacks a single member without a financial interest in its advocacy.

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