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Nutrition Labeling at Fast-Food and Other Chain Restaurants

Americans eat an estimated 218 restaurant meals per year, and nearly one-half (44%) of all adults eat at a restaurant on a given day. For many older persons, especially those living alone, eating out is an important source of nutrition and socialization. Many older consumers rely on restaurant foods because they may not have the ability or inclination to cook for themselves.

Yet older adults suffer disproportionately from the four leading causes of death linked to unhealthy diet: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. For the many older Americans who live with diet-related diseases, having information on the saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and caloric content of the foods they eat--both in and away from home--is imperative. Moreover, healthy people want nutritional information to reduce their risk of developing these diseases.

As a result of these concerns, legislative and regulatory proposals have been presented at the state and federal levels that would require disclosure of key nutritional information for specified restaurants. This Issue Brief, by Sandra B. Eskin and Sharon Hermanson of the AARP Public Policy Institute, is intended to inform the debate on these proposals. It discusses findings on the health impact of eating out more often, the need for nutritional labeling of restaurant foods, and policy options to address this problem.

For further information, please contact Sharon Hermanson at 202/434-3909. (6 pages)

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