Mar 25, 2014 7:06 PM by AP
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A bill requiring chain restaurants to provide calorie information on their menus received the narrow backing Tuesday of the Senate's health committee.
The proposal would require restaurants with at least 15 locations, one of which is located in Louisiana, to label the caloric content of their food items and beverages, including alcoholic drinks.
Chains that fail to comply with the requirements would face fines of $250 to $1,000, after getting a written notice and 60 days to meet the labeling mandate from the Department of Health and Hospitals.
Senators voted 4-3 to advance the bill to the full Senate for debate, with Chairman David Heitmeier, the bill's sponsor, casting the tie-breaking vote.
Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, introduced the proposal as part of a package of anti-obesity measures that he said were prompted by recommendations from Tulane University health researchers.
No one spoke in opposition to the proposal during the committee hearing. But after the hearing, Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas, said he had concerns about the bill's economic impact on restaurants.
"I'm not prepared to tamper with the business community to that extent," he said.
Sen. Dan Claitor, who also objected to the proposal, described it as unnecessary regulation.
Claitor, Guillory and Sen. Sherri Smith Buffington, R-Keithville, voted against the bill.
Voting for the bill were Heitmeier and Sens. Bret Allain, R-Franklin; Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge; and Dale Erdey, R-Livingston.
The measure would exclude condiments, prepackaged food that already has calories listed and custom-ordered food from the requirement.