Act Would Only Affect Chains with 20 or More Outlets

Fast-food and other chain restaurants would be required to disclose nutrition information on menus if legislation introduced by Assemblymen Douglas Fisher (D-District 3) and William Payne (D-District 29) becomes law. A3064 would require retail food establishments to list calories, saturated plus trans fat, carbohydrates, and sodium on printed menus and calories on menu boards. The bill applies only to standard menu items--not changing specials--and only to chains with 20 or more outlets in New Jersey.

Nutrition information is needed on chain restaurant menus since Americans are getting about one-third of their calories from outside the home, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Americans eat out twice as often as they did in 1970 and children eat almost twice as many calories in an average restaurant meal than in a home-cooked meal.

The nutritional content of popular restaurant items varies widely, and in one CSPI study, even professional dietitians failed to correctly estimate the calorie content of popular restaurant meals. A large milkshake at McDonald’s has more than a thousand calories, 35 percent more than are in a meal of a hamburger, small fries plus a small Coke.

"Most of the largest chain restaurants don't provide nutrition information, and those that do make it hard to find, hard to read, or available only on web sites," said CSPI's director of grassroots advocacy Claudia Malloy. "Good nutrition information is available in supermarkets, but people can only guess when they're eating at chain restaurants."

People have become accustomed to having access to nutrition information in supermarkets and they want that information on menus. According to nationally representative polls two-thirds of Americans support requiring fast-food and other chain restaurants to display the calorie content of their foods on menus and menu boards.

"This legislation would provide the citizens of New Jersey with the information they need to make informed choices, eat better, and maintain a healthy weight," said Malloy. "Such information would be a boon to people who watch what they eat to manage medical conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure."

Legislation similar to A3064 is pending in Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, and Massachusetts and is expected to be reintroduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives as well as in several other states.