Wednesday, March 6, 2013 | 3:15 p.m.
Many of Nevada’s chain restaurants, grocery stores, vending machines and convenience stores would need to label the nutritional information of their food under a bill proposed at the Nevada Legislature.
Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, has a bill that would require eateries with 10 or more locations in Nevada to post nutritional information in a “conspicuous space.”
“This is about consumer behavior and about having the appropriate information to make good decisions,” Flores said. “At least you know what you are putting in your body.”
She presented her bill Wednesday before the Assembly Health and Human Services committee, asking the committee whether they thought a thai salad or a bacon, cheese and ranch burger had more calories.
Surprisingly, the thai salad had more calories.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is already crafting regulations requiring food establishment chains with 20 or more locations to apply nutritional information to menus, a requirement of the federal health care overhaul law.
Flores said she wants Nevada to have a stricter standard so that consumers would have more information no matter where they are buying food.
“It is my opinion that if you have more than 10 locations, then having an analysis done of your menu items is just a way to be a good corporate citizen and help us deal with this obesity epidemic,” she said.
The bill would apply to businesses that have “substantially the same” menus or offerings, regardless of ownership structure. Prepared food sold in grocery store delis or convenience stores also could be subject to the new labeling requirements depending on how the regulations come down from the FDA.
Businesses with 20 or more locations already will have to comply with the regulations; Flores’ bill would capture those additional businesses with 10 to 19 locations and apply a misdemeanor penalty and between a $50 to $500 fine for the first offense.
The American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Southern Nevada Health District, and a dietician testified in support of the bill, largely for its educational components and its potential to reduce obesity.
“This is an opportunity to assist Nevadans to have the information that is going to provide them with the opportunity to make those decisions that can help them improve their health,” said Tom McCoy, Nevada director of government affairs for the American Cancer Society.
The Retail Association of Nevada opposed the bill because of the expense businesses would incur. The Nevada Restaurant Association also opposed the bill, but mainly because the FDA’s regulations are not yet complete.
“This needs to be addressed at the federal level,” said Warren Hardy, the restaurant association lobbyist. “It’s safe to say that we support having this codified in state law as soon as the federal rulemaking is done and the rules are established.”
The Nevada Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association also opposed the bill and said the federal government should finish crafting its regulations before the state acts.
“We believe the federal legislation really should stand supreme,” said Peter D. Krueger, the association’s executive director. “We need to see what it is. I believe this legislation may be a little premature.”
The committee took no action on the bill Wednesday.