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January 27, 2005
Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
(518) 455-5203

Ortiz Tells McDonald’s "Support Menu Labeling and End Lawsuits"
Proposal to require nutrition labeling of menus would help families and reduce lawsuits

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, (Brooklyn), Chair of the Task Force on Food Farm and Nutrition Policy, encouraged the fast food industry to accept his proposal that requires fast food and other foodservice chains to list nutrition information on their menu boards or regular menus to help their customers and insulate themselves from obesity lawsuits such as the one against McDonald’s that came to life yesterday.

According to Ortiz, "As more busy families eat out they may search menus for items suitable for themselves and their children but they can’t really know what is higher-calorie or lower fat while standing at the counter. How many people would guess that a fast food chain’s milkshake may have more calorie and fat than their burger with cheese or that a coffee chain’s Frappuccino has more than the milkshake?! My proposal would help consumers who are concerned about rising levels of obesity to decide what to order. McDonald’s is doing this in England, why can’t they do it here? The judge in New York decided that one of the reasons the suit against McDonald’s could go forward was because they didn’t provide nutrition information."

Nutrition labeling is required on most packaged foods found in supermarkets under federal law. Restaurants only have to provide nutrition information if they make a health claim. Ortiz’ bill would apply to fast food and other restaurant chains, convenience chains, donut and cookie chains and similar foodservice operations with 10 or more outlets nationally and 5 or more in New York State. If the chain only has menu boards and no menus to hand out, only calorie information is required. An FDA official heading a panel on obesity recently said the agency is examining this approach.

"The children that brought the lawsuit claim they became obese because they ate fattening foods at McDonald’s. Nutrition information would have helped them make better decisions. That is my goal. If my bill becomes law and someone continues to make bad food choices at these restaurants, that would be their prerogative, but they could not claim that the restaurants didn’t tell them about what they were putting in their bodies."

Assemblyman Ortiz is also the sponsor of the State Childhood Obesity Prevention Program and bills to: expand existing school snack restrictions to prevent school vending machines from selling soda and candy all day and to require nutritional items be sold as well; require health insurance coverage for Medical Nutrition Therapy; and, increase the quality and quantity of physical education in schools; screen school children for diabetes; and, fund obesity prevention through a small surcharge on certain foods, video games and other entertainment, and television ads aimed at children.

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