Legislation would put nutrition info on chain restaurant menus, menu boards in nation's capital

Chain restaurants in the nation’s capital may soon have to disclose calorie and other nutrition information if legislation announced today by District of Columbia Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) becomes law. The bill would require chain fast-food restaurants to display calorie counts on menu boards and table-service restaurants to disclose calorie, saturated plus trans fat, carbohydrate, and sodium content on printed menus. The proposal was applauded today by the nonprofit nutrition advocacy group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which said the bill would help consumers eat wisely and is a sensible response to the obesity epidemic.

The legislation, which is similar to bills offered in state legislatures in New York, New Hampshire, Maine, and Pennsylvania, would only apply to chain restaurants and retail establishments with 10 or more locations nationally. California and Texas are also considering legislation requiring better nutrition information in chain restaurants.

“Despite what the industry says, nutrition information is seldom available in chain restaurants,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo Wootan. “Even professional dietitians have a hard time estimating the calorie or fat content of restaurant meals. This bill would give people more information about their food choices and would encourage restaurants to provide more low-cal or low-fat options.”

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 overweight and obesity in children and adults, according to CSPI.

“I urge my fellow Councilmembers, the Mayor, and the public to support this measure,” said Mendelson. “Given the cost of diet-and inactivity-related diseases, we can’t afford not to.”

In addition to Mendelson, the bill is cosponsored by Councilmembers Sandy Allen, Sharon Ambrose, Kevin Chavous, Jack Evans, and Council Chairman Linda Cropp.