Introduction of the Labeling Education and Nutrition Act of 2009 -- (House of Representatives - March 9, 2009)
Mr. MATHESON. Madam Speaker, I rise today along with my colleague Rep. Fred Upton to introduce the ``Labeling Education and Nutrition Act of 2009''.
I am introducing this legislation so we can move toward providing consumers with key nutritional information they seek while hopefully providing restaurants with a workable framework to deliver this information to their customers. This legislation is a bipartisan effort to address nutritional labeling in this Congress. Senators Carper and Murkowski will introduce the companion bill in the coming days. With the introduction of the LEAN Act in both chambers, I believe we have an opportunity to have a constructive national conversation about uniform nutrition labeling requirements and standards.
Since 1994, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) has required food manufacturers to provide nutrition information on nearly all packaged foods. However, the NLEA exempts restaurants. Due to this exemption, states, cities and counties have acted to provide nutritional information to consumers. This has led to at least 20 states introducing varying degrees of labeling requirement legislation in 2009.
From New York City to the state of California, more and more cities, counties, and states are passing differing laws mandating that chain restaurants put calories and other nutritional information on menus and menu boards. The result of this increasing state activity is a patchwork of regulation that can be confusing to the consumer and is burdensome to restaurant chains.
The LEAN Act requires restaurants and grocery stores that serve prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to disclose calories for each menu item so that consumers can access this information before making a meal choice. Under this bill, calories will be posted directly on the menu, menu board or in one of the approved alternative ways, such as a menu insert or a sign directly next to the menu board.
As we see in our own lives and daily eating habits, consumers increasingly choose to eat in restaurants. According to a 2009 Forecast report by the National Restaurant Association, Americans are looking for healthier options when they dine out. In my home state of Utah, restaurant jobs represent about 8% of the employment. American adults buy a meal or a snack from a restaurant 5 times per week on average and spend 48% of their food budget on food away from home, almost $1078 per person annually. Unfortunately, we have also seen the toll diseases such as obesity and diabetes have taken on society. By providing nutritional information, individuals with special dietary needs will be able to make the right nutritional decisions for them regarding caloric intake or sodium levels.
I appreciate the interest and leadership my colleagues have demonstrated on this issue in the past. I believe this legislation represents a compromise effort that will allow consumers to make informed decisions while also providing for greater individual responsibility in dietary choices. Finally, I hope my colleagues will work with me on this piece of legislation and I look forward to working in a bipartisan way to build upon this legislative proposal.