Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tune in to the real game: labeling leapfrog

You may be getting your sports jollies this weekend from the Final Four contests. Me? I’ll be watching one of the great leapfrog races of all time, played out by lawmakers as restaurateurs stand attentively on the sidelines. Regardless of who comes in first, the industry is likely to see the adoption of second-generation menu-labeling rules that extend beyond a city or county, and possibly even a whole state.

New York state, for instance, is considering the overturn of New York City’s labeling law, the one that started it all. Bills introduced in both chambers of the legislature would supplant the city’s rules with a new statewide mandate. Lawmakers argue that a single set of regulations from Staten Island to Syracuse would help chains, the target of Gotham’s requirement. The multi-units would only have to meet one standard, regardless of were they opened in New York.

For the same reason, Oregon is considering a statewide labeling law. It would override the law already enacted in Mutnomah County, where Portland is located, and a similar measure under consideration in Lane County.

A similar situation can be found in a number of states. In each, the argument is made that a single statewide requirement might be better than a quilt work of rules and regulations. But a cynic might conclude that the measures are a sly way of slipping statewide labeling mandates onto the books. The proposals are sugarcoated as a preferable alternative to a hodgepodge.

The National Restaurant Association and its state affiliates maintain that the best option would be to carry the one-size-fits-all approach to its logical conclusion. They’re publicly supporting the passage of a national law, the Labeling Education and Nutrition Act.

There’s been no word yet from the G20 meetings about a proposal for an international labeling law.

1 comment:

FruittComm said...

My first introduction to menu labeling was in NYC when I learned to my horror that the Dunkin' Donuts muffin I'd been eating each morning had as many calories as a Big Mac (or thereabouts.) I think those labels do a real service to people...and to the industry. DD recently came out with some low-cal/fat items that allow me to stay a loyal user while not ballooning up like a whale. I strongly support state-wide labeling.