The National Restaurant Association today announced support for national calorie labeling in chain restaurants.
The proposed legislation (.pdf), the Labeling Education and Nutrition Act of 2008 (LEAN Act), "will provide a national nutrition labeling standard for foodservice establishments with 20 or more locations."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a public interest group that has long supported restaurant nutrition labeling, joined with the restaurant trade association in supporting the bill. CSPI director Michael Jacobson has a related blog post at the Huffington Post.
Why would the restaurant industry, which has in the past strongly opposed such policies, now lend its support? There are several reasons. First, the bill is a compromise bill, providing the restaurant chains with some of their key policy priorities, including preserving a good deal of flexibility in deciding how to present the information and protection from what the restaurants describe as "frivolous" lawsuits. Second, the industry is facing the hard facts that menu labeling policies are succeeding at the state and local level around the country. As with other important nutrition labeling policies in the past, such as the current nutrition facts panel on packaged food, an important sector of the food industry chose to support a new government policy in return for more consistent and less burdensome regulation across jurisdictions.