It is no secret that obesity is an epidemic in this country and that not knowing the nutritional content of the foods we eat can lead to weight gain. Remember Jones v. Dineequity, the class action lawsuit brought against Applebee’s Restaurants for advertising inaccurate nutritional content of its Weight Watchers menu items? Well, it is becoming more and more obvious that people make better, healthier decisions when equipped with the right tools, such as accurate nutritional information. A new study from Seattle Children’s Research Institute shows that parents pick healthier foods for their children if they understand more about the meals they are buying. In the study, parents were given a hypothetical fast food menu on which nutritional contents were displayed next to menu items. The study found that parents chose items that had fewer calories than what they would normally select and suggests that labeled menus can result in reducing the calories eaten at restaurants. New York has already adopted restaurant menu labeling regulations, and legislation that would require federal labeling standards, known as the Lean Act (H.R. 1398), is currently making its way through the legislative process.
The LEAN Act would provide consumers dining out at chain restaurants with comprehensive nutritional labeling informationin menu items-such as fat, carbohydrate and sugar content, not just calorie content– and allow them to make decisions suited for their specific health needs. The Lean Act is based on the federal Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), which provides consumers with comprehensive nutrition information in packed food items. Under the LEAN Act, restaurants would also be required to post statements on their menu boards indicating that the daily caloric intake is 2000 calories. Just as the NLEA has had a powerful effect on choices Americans make at the grocery store, the LEAN Act can provide millions consumers with the opportunity to create profound changes, in terms of health conscious choices, when dining out. Here at the Brod Law Firm we believe passing of the LEAN Act is an important step government can take to protect consumers from inadvertently hurting themselves when eating at restaurants. And considering the current debate over health care reform, the passing of this bill would be a means of preventive care for millions of Americans who want to take a proactive approach to their health.