Help Support Menu Labeling In Restaurants
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.
Tuesday, 15 April 2008 09:28
On April 10th, the American Dietitic Association issued a report on their stance on restaurant labeling.
The report says..
"To date, ADA has not supported any legislative proposals requiring restaurant calorie labeling. ADA generally praises state and local officials for their attention to this matter, but we urge caution in endorsing restaurant legislation or initiatives in the absence of scientific support to indicate that the action will be effective ."
The "absence of scientific support?"
Whose side are they really on?
Improving consumer health or protecting industry interests?
This is an organization who says they are ...
"... the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy."
This is not a stance that is in the best interest of consumers and the health of Americans. Nor am I alone in thinking so.
The following is from the January 2007, Journal of the American Dietitic Association (JADA Volume 107, Issue 1, Pages 33-34)
Need for and Effectiveness of Menu Labeling
Margo G. Wootan, DSc
National studies have found that three quarters of American adults report using food labels, and studies link using food labels with eating more healthful diets (1, 2, 3, 4). About half (48%) report that the nutrition information on food labels has caused them to change their minds about buying a food product (5). Studies show that nutrition information in restaurants also helps people make lower-calorie choices (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).
Finally, the authors overlook one of the most significant effects that packaged food labeling has had on food choices: product reformulation and the introduction of new, nutritionally improved products. Between 1991 (before the implementation of packaged food labeling requirements) and 1995 (after implementation), the number of available fat-modified cheese products tripled, and the market share for fat-modified cookies increased from 0% of the market to 15% (5, 13). In a similar fashion, nutrition labeling on menus and menu boards is likely to spur nutritional improvements in restaurant foods.
Providing the consumer with accurate health information is an important issue and one the ADA should be at the fore front of.
There is actually excellent evidence that the food label and other nutrition information has helped in consumers making healthier choices and in product comparisons. Even the Surgeon General and the National Academies' Institute of Medicine recommend that nutrition information be available to customers at restaurants, and state legislatures and the U.S. Congress are beginning to address the issue.
Some key points on the issue ...
Surveys show that 78% of Americans support menu labeling.
Two-thirds of adult Americans are overweight and one-third are obese. People need nutrition information to make wise choices to help manage their weight and reduce the risk of or manage heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure, which are leading causes of death, disability, and high health-care costs.
The average American eats out four meals a week; that is enough to lead to over-consuming calories not just on the day the person eats out, but also to exceed calorie requirements over the course of a whole week.
When eating out, people eat more saturated fat and fewer nutrients, such as calcium and fiber, than at home.
American adults and children consume on average one third of their calories from eating out. Children eat almost twice as many calories when they eat a meal at a restaurant compared toa meal at home.
Since 1994, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) has required food manufacturers to provide nutrition information on nearly all packaged foods. However, NLEA explicitly exempts restaurants.
Three-quarters of adults report using nutrition labels on packaged food, and using labels is associated with eating more healthful diets and studies show that providing nutrition information at restaurants can help people make lower calorie choices.
The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine recommends that restaurant chains “provide calorie content and other key nutrition information on menus and packaging that is prominently visible at point of choice and use” (2006). The Food and Drug Administration, Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Cancer Institute, and American Medical Association also recommend providing nutrition information at restaurants.
As these these prominent science based health care organizations know, there is plenty of sufficient scientific support to endorse food labeling.
Why the ADA refuses to take a stance is more than obvious.
If you are a consumer, please urge your Governor to support regulations or legislation requiring fast-food and other chain restaurants in your state to list calories, saturated plus trans fat, carbohydrates, and sodium on printed menus, and just calories on menu boards, where space is limited.
You can send a message directly to your Governor right from this website.
In addition, if you are a Registered Dietitian (and/or a member of the ADA), join me, in letting the ADA know that you support providing nutrition information at restaurants by signing this petition.
For more info on providing nutriton information on restaurant menus...