Why is menu labeling important?
With the number of meals people eat outside of the home reaching an all-time high (49% of food dollars are spent for eating out), it is becoming more important for consumers to have accurate information when eating out to make healthful choices. People typically underestimate the calories in the foods they eat.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that 9 out of 10 people underestimated the calorie content of certain items by an average of 600 calories (almost 50% less than the actual calorie content). Portion sizes have increased which makes it difficult for the public to estimate calorie consumption.
The National Institutes of Health believes that weight gain results because "a single meal from one of these restaurants often contains enough calories to satisfy a person's caloric requirement for an entire day." By providing the public with the nutrient values that are in their food they are able to make informed decisions.
When and where can I see menu labeling?
Phase 1 - by January 1, 2010
Chain restaurants are required to make available, upon request, the following information in written format for each standard menu item:
- Total calories
- Total grams of saturated fat
- Total grams of trans fat
- Total grams of carbohydrates
- Total milligrams of sodium
Multiple formats can be used to display this information including: a supplemental menu, a menu insert, brochures or a pamphlet. A copy of nutrient information shall be made available to each customer who requests it and restaurants should not require customers to return the information.
Phase 2 - by January 1, 2011
Chain restaurants are required to post the following information on menus, menu boards and food tags:
- Total calories must be posted in a conspicuous place in a font size no smaller than the price, or the least prominent font size of the description of the item.
- A statement listing the daily nutrient intake amounts of calories, saturated fat, and sodium.
- A statement that additional nutritional information is available upon request.
- What if I request nutrient information in a restaurant I believe to be a chain and it is not available?
Chain restaurants are required by law to provide nutrient information to anyone who requests it. If you request this information and it is not available, the chain restaurant is not in compliance with the law. We encourage you to let the restaurant know that they are required to provide this information.
- What if I believe a restaurant has inaccurately calculated their nutrient information?
At this time the Oregon Health Authority does not have the administrative ability to ensure accuracy of nutrient information.
- Can restaurants be fined if they don't comply with the Menu Labeling Act?
According to the Menu Labeling Act, restaurants can be fined now that the second phase of the Menu Labeling Act has taken effect. If a chain restaurant is found in violation of the law, they can be fined anywhere from $250 to $1,000 dollars for not posting calorie values.