Md. county eyes labeling bill

ROCKVILLE Md. The Montgomery County Council is expected to consider a bill that would require local restaurants with at least nine branches operating under the same name nationwide to post nutritional information on their menus or menu boards.

The proposal, which was the focus of hearings Tuesday night, would require the restaurants to post the calories, fat grams and sodium content of each food item.

The bill’s co-sponsor, democratic Councilman George Leventhal, maintains that the measure differs from the New York City labeling mandate that was struck down last week by a federal court in that it would apply to all units of chains above a certain size. The New York requirement applied solely to restaurants that already provided nutritional information on a voluntary basis via websites, brochures and other means. A federal judge ruled that the voluntary provision put the mandate in conflict with federal laws governing nutrition disclosure. Judge Richard Holwell specified that New York City could have regulated menu labeling if it had first mandated it from eating places, instead of imposing rules on places that voluntarily provided information.

The National Council of Chain Restaurants filed written comments with the Montgomery County Council, cautioning the legislative body “ to avoid any one-size-fits-all approach that imposes mandates on menu board or menu labeling.”

Montgomery County, a suburb of Washington, D.C., issued a trans fat ban earlier this year that goes into effect Jan. 1.