Menu Labeling in DC


People in DC will spend over 2 billion dollars on food eaten outside of the home this year. In 2004, the District was the city that spent the highest amount of money on eating out.


Research shows that eating food outside of the home (in restaurants) is linked to higher amounts of body fat and may be a cause of the high level of overweight and obesity in the United States. Americans are eating out more than ever and restaurant meals often contain half a day’s recommended calories, saturated fat, or sodium. Studies show that unlabeled food (which is served in most restaurants) can also promote overeating.


Overweight and obesity is a growing problem in the United States and in the District of Columbia. Currently over half of DC residents are overweight or obese. This is 15th highest in the nation for adults. The number of overweight children ages 10-17 in DC is the higher than any other state.


Overweight and obesity are related to many serious diseases, including Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. The number of people in DC with Type II diabetes is higher than the national average, and the leading cause of death for people of all ages is heart disease. Over 140,000 DC residents have high blood pressure. DC spends about $250 per person each year on medical costs from these diseases. All of these people would benefit from having nutrition information on menus and menu boards, because making healthier food choices is necessary in treating Type II diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.


MEAL choices are informed choices. DC residents have the right to make healthier, informed choices when ordering food in restaurants. In order to do this, they must be given the information.


National surveys show that consumers want nutrition information in restaurants. Nutrition information has been on packaged food since the early 1990's and more than 65% of consumers say that they use this information when buying food. More and more Americans are trying to take responsibility for their health by improving their diet. Without menu labeling, there is very limited information for consumers who want to make healthier food choices when eating in restaurants.  


In 2001 the US Surgeon General recognized that making healthier food choices in restaurants is an important part in improving the health of Americans. He strongly encouraged the food industry to revisit current food portion practices through a Call to Action. There have been no changes to date.