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Menu labeling part of Pelosi's health care reform bill

WASHINGTON Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi Thursday introduced a sweeping, $894 billion health care bill that also includes provisions for menu labeling.

The 1,990-page bill outlines general nutrient-labeling requirements for restaurants and retail establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more outlets.

Those restaurants affected would be required to prominently post calorie counts for standard items on menus and menu boards as well as calories per serving for each item on a buffet, salad bar, cafeteria line or self-service display.

Standard menu items are defined as those offered for at least 60 days per calendar year and would not include daily specials, custom orders and test market items on the menu for less than 90 days.

Restaurateurs also would be required to post a brief statement regarding daily caloric intake “designed to enable the public to understand, in the context of a total daily diet, the significance of the nutrition information that is provided.”

In addition, operators would be required to advise customers that additional nutrition information is available upon request.

Restaurant association officials have voiced support for a similar Senate bill, maintaining that the industry needs a uniform national nutrition labeling standard to avoid a patchwork of state and local regulations.

"We're very pleased that the nutrition information provision continues to garner bipartisan support, and we're pleased that the agreement is now moving forward in the House of Representatives," said Mike Donohue, vice president of media relations for the National Restaurant Association.

However, a coalition of chain executives insist that the measure does not go far enough and argue that the rules should apply to a greater number of foodservice operators.

The Pelosi bill also would require calorie disclosure in vending machines.

Separately, the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee bill also includes a similar menu labeling provision.

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected].

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