Calorie-Listing Bill Spawns Industry Fight

According to a news report from the Chicago Tribune, “hoping to clean up a patchwork of what it says are unwieldy state and local laws, a restaurant trade group is pushing a federal bill that would require chains to disclose the calorie counts of meals on the menu.”

“But big companies such as Domino’s, KFC and El Pollo Loco say the proposed legislation lets too many restaurants off the hook. They want to broaden the requirement to include many individual eateries and small chains. The fight has become so intense that the warring parties have made some unusual alliances. The National Restaurant Assn. has forged a pact with a public policy interest group often called the “food police” and long a foe of the industry. It sees the proposed legislation, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) in May and since combined with a competing bill, as the best way to expand menu labeling nationwide after years of objections by the restaurant trade.”

“Meanwhile, more than a dozen fast-food and pizza chains have linked up with several health groups that believe the legislation should include as many establishments as possible. The bill, they say, has gaps big enough to let a milk tanker drive through. As written, the bill applies only to chains with 20 or more restaurants operating under the same name. They must post calories on menus and provide more detailed written information, such as fat and sodium content, on request. The 20-establishment threshold captures just 25 percent of roughly 1 million restaurants nationally, said Jonathan Blum, a senior vice president of Yum Brands Inc., which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC and several other chains,” the story said.