Contact: Brian Wolfman, Public Citizen, 202/588-1000

or Bruce Silverglade, Center for Science in the Public Interest, (202) 332-9110, ext. 337

Court Requires Restaurant Menus To Meet FDA Standards for Health and Nutrition Claims

The U.S. Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. has ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set regulatory standards for health and nutrition claims on restaurant menus. Claims such as "low fat," "light," and "heart-healthy" will be required to meet uniform regulatory standards issued by the agency.

Similar regulations required by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 have been in effect for grocery store food packaging since 1994, but the FDA failed to extend the rules to claims made on restaurant menus. In Public Citizen, Inc. v. Shalala, (Civil Action Number 93-0509), U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman ruled that Congress intended that restaurant menus be covered by the requirements of the labeling law and that the FDA has no discretion to exempt restaurant menus from the law's requirements.

The lawsuit leading to the court's decision was brought by Public Citizen and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. They issued the following statements:

Brian Wolfman, Staff Attorney, Public Citizen

"We are thrilled with the Court's ruling, which recognizes that the FDA's menu exemption was wholly at odds with Congressional intent and the statute's purpose -- to provide accurate nutrition information to consumers and to prevent misleading health claims."

Bruce Silverglade, Legal Director, Center for Science the Public Interest

"For years many restaurant menus have made misleading health and nutrition claims ranging from 'low fat' claims for high-fat desserts to claims that foods flavored with Chinese herbs will lower blood pressure and improve vision. A restaurant menu should not be a work of fiction. Fortunately, the court's decision means that the days of 'Diner Beware' are coming to an end and claims on menus will be more trustworthy. With about half of all food dollars being spent on food eaten away from home, and one-third of all calories in the average American's diet coming from such food, restaurant patrons deserve assurances that nutrition claims are honest and truthful."

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