Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rockland County, NY Set to Join Menu Board Wars

Rockland County, NY seeks to join those communities requiring fast food and chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menu boards. According to the Journal News, County Legislator Joseph Meyers, (D-Airmont) proposed the “Rockland County National Food Service Establishments Calorie Posting Law” which requires an eatery that is part of a chain that has 15 or more restaurants to post the calorie counts of their standard food items on their menus, including menu boards. The law would exempt menu items listed for sale for less than 30-days in a calendar year.

If the law passes, Rockland will join New York City in mandating calorie disclosure on menus and menu boards. Westchester County, NY is set to vote on a similar law in November. New York City's menu law has already survived a court challenge from the New York State Restaurant Association in federal district court in Manhattan.

The issue has also risen to national prominence as industry groups such as the National Restaurant Association, the International Franchise Association, and the National Council of Chain Restaurants have put their weight behind the LEAN Act, proposed federal legislation that would water down the mandates of New York City’s law and preempt any state of local statute that goes beyond its provisions. Portland, Seattle and the State of California have all passed versions of calorie disclosure law for fast food and chain restaurants.

Today’s New York Times writes, “Two proposals moving through Congress would make calorie postings uniform nationwide. One, the Labeling Education and Nutrition Act, is backed by the restaurant industry and would give restaurants and grocery stores selling prepared foods a choice of labeling formats, including posters near the cash register or disclosures on the back of the menu. It would preempt tougher laws, like New York’s. A second proposal, the Menu Education and Labeling Act, is supported by public health advocates and more closely mirrors New York’s law. It would not preempt more stringent local laws.”

The MENU Act has stuck in a Senate committee since March of 2008, and its sister legislation has been stuck in committee in the House since October of 2007.

The industry supported LEAN Act was proposed in the Senate last month.

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