Friday, October 24, 2008

Summary of Polls on Fast-Food Menu Disclosure Requirements & Passed, Pending and Defeated Legislation

Here is a summary of polls on nutrition labeling in fast-food and chain restaurants.

In a Caravan Opinion Research Corporation 2008 poll of 1,003 adults, 78% of respondents agreed that “fast-food and other chain restaurants should list nutritional information, such as calories, fat, sugar or salt content on menus and menu boards.”

In an ARAMARK Corporation 2005 poll of 5,297 adults, 83% of respondents agreed that “restaurants should make nutrition information available for all menu items.”

In a Technomic Inc. 2007 poll of 2,500 respondents, 74% of respondents agreed that “menu boards should list nutrition information for all items served.”

In a Global Strategy Group, 2003 poll, 67% of respondents agreed that “restaurants should be required to provide nutrition information, including calories, on menus.

In an End Hunger Connecticut 2007 state-wide poll of 501 respondents, 82% supported “requiring fast-food and chain restaurants to display calorie content on menus or menu boards” and 84% supported “requiring fast-food and chain restaurants to post nutrition information on their menus.”

It seems that when the mandate is worded more strongly or more specifically, there is a slight erosion of support. Compare the results in polls that simply say the chains “should list information” with the poll that says they “should be required to list.” Of course that same discrepancy could be explained by the age of the poll. The more recent polls show stronger support for disclosure requirements. Regardless, support is overwhelmingly in favor of menu disclosure.

California, New York City, King County (Seattle) Washington, and Portland, Oregon have all passed menu labeling laws. The Portland law passed in July of 2008 and public hearing are being held on November 6th and 20th regarding implementation of the law.

Similar laws are pending in HI, MA, MI, NJ, NY, PA, VT, IA, KY, TN and the District of Columbia. Westchester County, NY is voting on the issue in the next few weeks. Nashville, TN has a public hearing set for November 6th.

Two statewide initiatives in Washington and Indiana have been defeated.

On the national stage, competing versions of menu labeling laws are pending in Congress – The MEAL Act vs. the LEAN Act. See my earlier posting here:. The MEAL Act is similar to New York City’s court-tested law. The LEAN Act is favored by the National Restaurant Association and other industry groups. It has less stringent standards that permit calorie and nutritional information to be posted in less conspicuous places or in menu addenda, and a provision for federal preemption of state and local menu disclosure laws. Federal preemption could render all local and state laws unenforceable.

In unrelated news, the USDA FSIS posted Sensenig Meats, 6999 Cannery Road, Hanover, PA and Steely Meats, 54 Mt. Pleasant Road, Fayetteville, PA as possible recipients of recalled 60-pound bulk boxes of "BM-95 Boneless Beef."

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