After signing the ban on trans fats in restaurants in July, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger may sign legislation requiring calorie information on menus and menu boards in restaurants throughout California.
The legislation, coauthored by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, and Assembly member Marc DeSaulnier, D-Concord, has received final legislative approval by the Senate.
The bill is awaiting approval by Gov. Schwarzenegger, who vetoed a similar bill last year, citing a lack of flexibility within the bill.
‘The previous bill was vetoed and Sen. Padilla has worked on drafting a bill that can be a compromise that will be signed into law. The main goal is that people will have the nutritional information directly available to them,’ said Taryn Kinney, press deputy for Sen. Padilla.
The bill would require chain restaurants with 20 or more locations to include calorie information on their menus and menu boards inside the restaurants as well.
The legislation resembles the ordinance already enacted in New York City that requires restaurants such as McDonalds, Starbucks and Subway among others, to post on their menu boards caloric information.
‘A client of mine had just been in New York city and said that when she was getting ready to order at a restaurant, seeing the nutritional information displayed did influence and change her decision,’ said Lauren Schmitt, M.S., who is a registered dietician, certified personal trainer and a nutrition, dietetics and food science professor in the department of family and consumer services.
‘Often people are shocked to learn just how many calories are in the food they’re consuming. With the fast pace of most people’s lives, they tend to grab what is fastest, not fully realizing how many calories that food contains,’ said Schmitt.
Sen. Padilla believes that menu labeling will help make nutritional information more readily available and help individuals make better informed decisions, added Kinney.
‘The obesity rates in California are part of an undisputed crisis and Sen. Padilla is interested in seeing legislation passed that will help inform and educate the public,’ said Kinney.
‘This is part of an ongoing trend that we have seen in New York and San Francisco. We’re letting the California Restaurants Association take the lead, and they have been working to soften the blow for fast-food restaurants,’ said Beth Mansfield, public relations manager for CKE Restaurants, Inc, in a phone interview.
‘There were problems with the previous bill, it was more complicated. At Carl’s Jr. our nutritional information has been available for some time, whether through a brochure or on a separate poster. It will make the menus more crowded and it will take time and money to update all that information,’ said Mansfield.
‘ ‘It’s important that people have the nutritional information available to them, and that they read the labels properly. For instance, understanding that the label lists information for a certain amount of servings and that it can have multiple servings, multiplying the calories listed,’ said Schmitt.
Menu labeling can have an educational impact on individuals but does not necessarily guarantee that individuals will stop eating unhealthy food, added Schmitt.
The bill designates a two-year period to accommodate the transition for restaurants to begin including calorie information on their menus.
Excluded in the bill are alcoholic beverages, pre-packaged goods that are from other states, as well as condiments.
If signed, the bill will require that beginning July, 2009 restaurants must provide brochures containing nutritional information and beginning July 2011, calorie information to be posted on menus and menu boards inside of restaurants.
‘At Carl’s Jr. we offer our customers healthier options, as well as nutritional information. We support educating people and understand the concerns of high obesity rates in the state. However, this legislation will put a financial and logistical burden on many restaurants,’ said Mansfield.