N.J. latest state to tackle menu labeling

TRENTON N.J. Officials of the New Jersey Restaurant Association say they strongly oppose the passage of a bill requiring some restaurants in the state to post calorie counts on menus and menu boards.

The measure, which was approved Monday by the Senate’s state health committee by a vote of 7-0, requires restaurants in New Jersey with 20 or more outlets across the country to post calorie counts adjacent to food and beverage items and offer additional nutritional information to customers upon request.

Daily specials, temporary menu items, customized orders or food or beverage items from the salad bar would be excluded, the bill says.

Operators who do not post the calorie information or knowingly give incorrect information could be fined from $50 to $100 for the first offense and $250 to $500 for subsequent offenses.

Deborah Dowdell, president of the New Jersey Restaurant Association, says although the association opposes menu-labeling mandates at the state level, it supports bipartisan federal legislation that would establish a uniform standard, block frivolous lawsuits and pre-empt existing state and local laws.

 

The NJRA met with the state bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joseph Vitale, to discuss its position, but was unable to convince him to wait for Congress to pass a federal menu-labeling law, Dowdell said. The association did succeed in convincing New Jersey lawmakers to raise the number of restaurants required to post calorie data from a chain with five or more outlets to a chain with 20 or more locations.

Dowdell said the state assembly and senate potentially could pass the measure before the end of the year and present it to outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine for his signature before he steps down in January.

Maryland’s Montgomery County Council passed a similar measure last week. Other jurisdictions with similar laws include New York City; Philadelphia; Nashville, Tenn.; New York’s Albany, Westchester, Suffolk and Ulster counties; and Oregon’s Multnomah County.

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected] [2].