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Sponsor of 2010 Menu Law Calls on Health Dept to Begin Enforcement

Assemblywoman Connie Wagner today called on the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to begin enforcing the new law that requires chain restaurants in New Jersey to post the calorie information for food and beverage items sold in the interest of combating the growing nationwide obesity epidemic.

The law, which Wagner sponsored, was signed in January 2010 and officially went into effect on January 17, 2011. To date, DHSS has failed to promulgate the necessary rules to carry out the new law. Wagner, along with fellow sponsor Senator Joseph Vitale, sent a letter to DHSS Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh last week expressing their hope that the anti-obesity measure will be carried out and enforced as required by law.

“Obesity rates in our country have skyrocketed over the last 30 years. This is a public health measure that cannot be ignored,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “I sincerely hope the department is not going to sit around waiting for pending regulations from the federal government that may never pan out.”

Wagner visited several restaurants in and around her district this week and none have begun adhering to the new requirement. Wagner noted three restaurants – McDonald’s in Paramus, Subway in Fair Lawn and Wendy’s in Midland Park – that have not begun to post the calorie content on their menus.

The lawmaker noted that approximately 50 percent of Americans report that the nutrition information on food labels has caused them to change their minds about purchasing a particular food product, and it has been shown that a large number of Americans would like to be provided with nutrition information for food and beverage items listed on a restaurant’s menu.

“Given everyone’s hectic lifestyle these days, we are all many times at the mercy of the quickness and convenience of fast food. But if a particular restaurant offers healthier alternatives, customers will often choose lower calorie items if armed with the right information. This is about empowering consumers to make healthier choices to benefit their long-term health.”