Menu labeling law takes effect: How many calories in that sandwich?


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Would you reconsider your lunch order if you knew the number of calories in that bacon cheeseburger or chili fries? California legislators are counting on it.

California’s latest effort against obesity takes effect today: Chain restaurants with 20 or more locations have to provide brochures listing the nutrition information about their foods. That’s the first phase of California’s new menu labeling law.

The brochures must contain counts of calories, saturated fat, carbohydrates and sodium for all standard menu items. For sit-down restaurants, the information must be provided at the table -- in a brochure or menu insert or on a table tent.

“The way Californians order food is about to change. More than 17,000 restaurant locations throughout California will provide important nutrition information starting today. California is the first state in the nation to tackle obesity with menu labeling,” said Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), the author of the legislation with Sen. Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) and Assembly member Marc DeSaulnier (D-Concord).


The next phase will hit diners more directly: Beginning Jan. 1, 2011, calorie information must be on menus and indoor menu boards.

The legislation was modeled on a New York City ordinance that affects large chain restaurants that now post calorie counts on menu boards, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks and Quizno’s.

Nearly 16 million Californians are obese or overweight, and many suffer from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.

-- Mary MacVean