Lawmakers submit bill to require display of nutritional info

Written by  //  January 21, 2011  //  Government  //  No comments

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While the local Legislature is pursuing a bill requiring restaurant chains with five or more locations on the island to publicly display the nutritional value of the meals they sell, the Food and Drug Administration on Friday postponed a similar menu labeling requirement it was looking to impose on stateside eateries.

The FDA’s decision drew immediate reaction from the International Franchise Association, which praised the delay.

“The FDA’s willingness to work directly with the IFA and the franchised restaurant industry will enable them to get the rules right the first time,” said IFA President and CEO Stephen J. Caldeira. “The decision to postpone guidance and conduct a full rulemaking process will allow stakeholders to provide input that will result in a workable regulation for small restaurant owners. We applaud the FDA for moving forward in the most efficient, cost-effective manner possible while giving franchise owners adequate time to comply.”

Among other things, the IFA noted the FDA’s decision to implement a full menu labeling regulation, which will help small restaurant owners deal with the associated costs, rather than going through a tiered approach.

The cost of setting in motion such menu labeling requirements is an issue that the local Restaurant Owners Association has also brought up with regards to Senate Bill 1608, which they say will reportedly cost them $2 million to implement.

Bill 1608 seeks to create the Nutrional Facts Disclosure Law requiring restaurant operators to “clearly display, on the menus, the calories of each of the articles offered to consumers.”

Ultimately, the goal of the local initiative is to address the growing obesity problem in Puerto Rico, and help consumers get more detailed nutritional information when eating out.

“A consumer who does not have access to all available information is not in the best position to recognize the implications of their decisions when selecting which foods to eat,” the measure states. “Modern life has forced changes in habits when it comes to eating and more and more Puerto Ricans are buying their prepared meals in different establishments.” 

The bill seems to be following similar measures passed in New York and California requiring all restaurants to display the caloric and nutritional content of their meals.

Bill 1608 has yet to be approved, but it has already received a joint positive report from the Senate Health Committee and the Banking, Consumer Affairs and Public Corporations Committee.

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