The National Restaurant Association (NRA) is supporting the Labeling, Education and Nutrition (LEAN) Act, to be passed through Congress in the next few weeks, after concerns were raised that individual state and county laws on calorie labelling are damaging to the industry and confusing to American diners.
The law outlines a nationally applicable, mandatory calorie labelling code applying to restaurant chains with over 20 outlets, which includes guidelines on calculating nutrition information and provides ‘a reasonable range of flexibility for the restaurant’.
Dawn Sweeney, chief executive of the NRA, said the legislation was important in providing consumers with nutritional information in a consistent format across the country.
“We thank the Senators for recognising the importance of legislation that meets the needs of both the restaurant industry and our customers,” she said. “We look forward to working with Congress to enact this legislation, which provides caloric information on the menu and additional information, such as sodium and carbohydrates, in other accessible formats.”
While in the UK the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) guidelines on menu labelling is currently voluntary, with 18 caterers and large restaurant chains signing up to the scheme in April, fears have been raised by the industry that Britain may follow in America’s footsteps and introduce a compulsory code.
A spokesperson for the British Hospitality Association said they would be ‘concerned’ if the USA scheme was implemented in the UK, even though it only applies to groups of over 20 restaurants.
“Our fear is that this voluntary scheme will become statutory and will be applied to all restaurants,” he said. “We are concerned that the individual owner-operator will be obliged to provide such information. He will not have the time, the expertise, the knowledge or the equipment to accurately assess the nutritional content of his dishes.
“Those UK restaurant companies that have entered the voluntary scheme typically provide standard dishes in standard portion sizes, which makes it easier to provide accurate nutritional information across the chain. Individual restaurants vary their dishes day by day and would find it very onerous and costly to comply with such a regulation.”
While some US states such as California and New York City have already introduced their own calorie labelling schemes, the nationally applicable LEAN Act still needs to be negotiated by the American Senate and House of Representatives before it is passed.