EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


May 26, 2013

As grocers, restaurants bicker, menus still lack calorie counts


Grocers back a bill called the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2013 (H.R. 1249), introduced in March by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.

It requires nutrition labeling only for businesses that get most of their sales from prepared meals.

Some pizza chains, including Domino’s, Papa John’s and Little Caesars, support that legislation, too, because it would also allow takeout places to post information online rather than on menu boards. It would also allow foods that are often shared, such as pizza, to list calories per individual serving.

But even as the government tries to figure out the details, some restaurants, including Panera Bread, McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A, have started posting calories on their own.

Orlando-based Nature’s Table Cafe plans to join that list in the next few months. The chain, which has locations in several Southern and Western states, already provides nutritional information online. Still, Vice President Rich Wagner said, many customers have said they would prefer to see calories on menus.

“Our nutritionals look pretty good,” Wagner said. “We’re going to be proud about putting them up.”

Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, which owns Red Lobster, Olive Garden and other chains, now lists calories, fat and sodium on children’s menus at its Bahama Breeze restaurants. Darden says it will wait for final regulations to come out before doing anything more.

The national menu labeling law came about as a compromise between the restaurant industry and public-health advocates. The deal came after places such as New York City began requiring calorie disclosure. Many restaurants decided a national standard would be better.

As originally written, the law, part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, requires chains with 20 or more restaurants to disclose calories on menus. If customers ask about other nutritional details, such as sodium levels, carbohydrates and saturated fats, the restaurants must provide it in writing.

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