Montgomery Council Approves Bill Requiring Nutrition Information for Menus, Signboards
Chief Sponsor Leventhal’s Legislation Will Have Major Chain Establishments
Disclose Calories, Fat, Sodium, Other Information
ROCKVILLE, Md., November 17, 2009—The Montgomery County Council today approved by an 8-1 vote Bill 19-07 that would require certain County restaurants to post nutritional information on menus and menu boards. The legislation, whose chief sponsor was Councilmember George Leventhal and which was cosponsored by Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, had recently been amended to reflect provisions being discussed in a similar bill now being considered in Congress.
In addition to Councilmembers Leventhal and Trachtenberg, voting to support the bill were Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Valerie Ervin, Nancy Floreen and Nancy Navarro. Councilmember Mike Knapp voted against it. The regulations are scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2010.
Nutrition labeling Bill 19-07 will require an establishment with at least 20 national locations that offer the same type of menu at each location to post information on calories on the menu or menu board for any standardized menu item. Establishments are required to provide calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total and complex carbohydrates, cholesterol, sugar, fiber and protein for any standardized menu item in writing on request.
For food in self-service facilities such as salad bars and buffet lines, the bill would require an establishment to post calorie information for a standard serving size on a food item tag next to the item.
At the suggestion of Council Vice President Berliner, the bill was unanimously amended today to exclude movie theatres, bowling alleys, grocery stores and convenience stores.
“This is all about public health,” said Councilmember Leventhal. “Everyone looks to government to reduce the crime rate and improve highway and pedestrian safety. Yet heart disease kills far more Americans than traffic accidents and homicide. I do think it is valid for us as policymakers to consider what we are doing to improve public health.”
A number of jurisdictions have enacted or implemented menu labeling laws. Research by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) shows that among the jurisdictions to have menu labeling laws are New York City; Westchester County, N.Y.; King County, Wash.; and Multnomah County, Ore. California has passed statewide legislation that will be phased in over the next two years.
Councilmember Leventhal said it was important for the County to pass Bill 19-07, even though similar legislation is being considered by Congress, because he thinks the measure go into effect as soon as possible.
“I am glad that Congress is talking about this type of legislation, but I have worked in Congress and I know that a lot of things that are talked about on The Hill either move slowly, or in some cases, never get completed as intended,” said Councilmember Leventhal. “By putting this measure in place soon, we will just be getting a head start on protecting the health of our residents.”
CSPI and the National Restaurant Association both support the bipartisan bill in Congress addressing nutritional labels for menus and menu boards, which is part of the health care reform debate. That bill would affect chains with 20 or more locations.
A September 2009 report issued by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies estimated 16.3 percent of U.S. children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese. The report recommended measures to help address the problem, including providing better measures of nutritional information. The Institute specifically endorsed menu labeling legislation as a best practice for state and local governments to adopt to combat youth obesity.
An editorial in the July 25, 2009 Washington Post urged a move to quickly adopt menu labeling legislation. “If more Americans were confronted with those numbers,” said the editorial, “it would lead to healthier diets and a less obese nation.”