Nutrition Labeling Proposed for DC Chain Restaurants

Legislation Would Put Nutrition Info on Menus at Fast Food and Other Chain Restaurants in Nation’s Capital

October 27, 2005

District residents waiting in line at McDonald's may soon be able to see that a Big Mac costs 590 calories, if legislation sponsored by District of Columbia Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) becomes law. The Menu Education and Labeling (MEAL) Act would require fast-food and other chain restaurants in DC to list calories, saturated plus trans fat, carbohydrates, and sodium on printed menus and calories on menu boards (where there is less space).

The legislation, which is similar to bills introduced in state legislatures in Maine, New Jersey, and New York, would only apply to standard menu items – not special orders or changing specials – at chain restaurants with 10 or more locations nationally.

"We congratulate Councilmember Mendelson for working to give District residents better information about their food choices," said Margo G. Wootan, CSPI's director of nutrition policy. "Too often, nutrition information in chain restaurants is hard to find, hard to read, or missing altogether. This bill would take the guesswork out of restaurant dining."

Away-from-home foods account for a third of Americans' caloric intakes, and the high calorie content and large portion sizes of many restaurant foods are key contributors to the skyrocketing rates of obesity in children and adults, according to CSPI.

"I urge my fellow Councilmembers to co-introduce the MEAL Act," said Mendelson. "This bill will help the thousands of District residents who watch what they eat to manage diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure."

Mendelson will reintroduce the MEAL Act on Tuesday, November 1, 2005. The bill is supported by the American Cancer Society, South Atlantic Division; American Diabetes Association, DC Affiliate; American Heart Association, National Capital Area, as well as many other local organizations and distinguished nutrition and health experts.


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