Board of Health Approves Menu-Labeling



The Metro Board of Health today approved a regulation requiring restaurants with 15 or more locations locally or nationally to post calories on menus, menu boards and food tags by March of 2010.

The regulation is intended to help fight obesity by supplying information for consumers to make well-informed nutritional choices. Similar legislation has recently been introduced at the state level.

The full press release is available after the jump.

Board of Health Approves Davidson County Menu Labeling Regulation

Regulation Requires Calories Be Posted on Menu Boards, Menus, and Food Tags

Compliance Begins in 12 Months

NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 5, 2009 -- The Metropolitan Board of Health today voted in favor of a menu labeling regulation that will require restaurants operating in Davidson County with 15 or more locations locally or nationally to post calories on menus, menu boards, and food tags by March of 2010.

Board members agreed to exclude entertainment facilities, including, but not limited to, stadiums, convention centers, auditoriums, symphonies, performing arts centers, theaters, movie theaters; or lodging establishments, including, but not limited to, hotels, inns, tourist accommodations, cabins, motels, or bed and breakfast establishments. They also identified a "menu item" as any individual food or drink item, or combination of food or drink items, listed or displayed on a menu board or menu or identified by a food item tag that is/are sold by a covered food service establishment. "Menu item" does not include:

Alcohol and alcoholic beverages, the labeling of which is not regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration; or a food item that is customized on a case by case basis in response to an unsolicited customer request; or condiments and other items placed on a table or counter for general use without charge; or items sold in a manufacturer's original sealed package that contains nutrition information as required by federal law.

Menu labeling regulations were proposed by the Metro Public Health Department as one measure to fight an obesity epidemic in Nashville where nearly 6 in 10 adults are overweight or obese, and nearly 30 percent of Nashville's youth are overweight or obese. The proposed regulations would apply only to restaurants with 15 or more outlets nationwide.

Tennessee House of Representative Mike Turner of Old Hickory, and State Senator Jim Kyle have submitted bills in the past week similar to the Health Department's proposed regulation. House Bill 2319 and Senate Bill 2314 would require restaurant chains to disclose the number of calories by one of the following means:

(1) on the menu board;

(2) on a food tag;

(3) in the menu; or

(4) in an insert that accompanies the menu and is printed in the same font size as the menu.

Tennessee House of Representative Susan Lynn of Mount Juliet and State Senator Paul Stanley recently submitted House Bill 950 and Senate Bill 1092 that if passed would prohibit the commissioner of health or any county or metropolitan board of health or political subdivision of this state from enacting any ordinance or issue any rule or regulation pertaining to the provision of food nutritional information at food service establishments.

A recent Health Department telephone survey shows a majority of Nashville residents support placing calorie information on menus and menu boards.

The results were based on responses from 400 residents participating in an automated random-digit phone survey. Of 351 with a valid response, 78 percent (284 persons) supported the menu-labeling requirement and 21 percent (79 persons) opposed it.

Telephone survey participants were also asked how often they ate at restaurants or ordered in during the past week. Forty-nine percent said they had eaten out one to three times during the past week and 41 percent said they had eaten out four or more times during the past week. Only 10 percent said they had not eaten out during the past week.

"Results from the survey show that eating restaurant food has become for many an everyday event," Dr. Paul said. "Most people underestimate the calories they take in when they are eating out. Some main dishes may contain 1,600 calories. That's about three quarters of the calories most adults should eat in a whole day."

"Two recent national reports show Tennessee's health ranking at 46th and 47th," Dr. Paul said. "The most alarming result of this epidemic and the chronic diseases attached to it is that the life expectancy of our children's generation will be shorter than our own."

For more information about the proposed regulation visit the Health Department's website.

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