To curb the growing problems of obesity and improper nutrition among Filipinos, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has proposed a measure requiring restaurants and fastfood chains to disclose calorie content and nutritional information in their menus.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 854 which seeks to mandate the disclosure of “nutritional information” in menus of food service establishments.
“Nutrient content information provided at the time of food selection in food service establishments would enable consumers to make more informed and healthier food choices, promote health awareness and proper dieting,” she said.
She added that it would also “assist consumers who are monitoring their diets or dealing with chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”
Three out of ten – or 31 percent – of Filipino adults are overweight or obese, according to the 8th National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute in 2013.
The same report noted that 22.3 percent of the adult population is considered hypertensive, as hypertension prevalence is common among the adult population and is found to be higher among rural versus urban residents.
The lady Senator from Bicol maintained that it is the duty of the State to protect and value the people’s right to health, a human right, and instill a sense of health consciousness among them.
“Weight gain occurs when more calories are consumed than are expended. Eating out, and eating extra calories while eating out, contribute disproportionately to the excess calorie intake that fuels the rise in incidence of obesity,” she said.
“Those who are less aware of the need for proper dieting are left oblivious of the nutritional values that they intake, which would potentially cause detrimental effects on their health in the long run,” she added.
Under SB No. 854, or the “Nutritional Information Disclosure Act,” these food establishments are mandated to disclose in a “clear and conspicuous manner” on their menus and menu boards the calorie content information, which shall be adjacent to the name of the standard menu item.
“Calorie content information means the total number of calories per standard menu item, as the item is usually prepared and offered for sale,” she noted.
Under the proposed measure, nutritional information includes, among others, the total number of calories, total number of grams of carbohydrates, total number of grams of saturated fat, total number of grams of protein, total number of milligrams of sodium.
For the other nutritional information of the standard menu items, De Lima said the covered food establishments are required to disclose the information in a brochure that is made available at the point of sale even before a customer place an order.
The food service establishments covered under the proposed measure include those that are doing business nationally, offering for sale substantially the same menu items, and those that operate under common ownership or as franchised outlets of a parent business.