For those pushing for nutritional (primarily calorie) information on restaurant menus, this week was a big step forward, and a big step back. The California Assembly approved a bill that would require chain restaurants to list the calories, fat, and salt in their standard menu items. If Governor Schwarzenegger—Christ, that still sounds so weird to me—signs the bill, California will be the first state to require nutrition information on menu boards.
On the other coast, a judge struck down a New York City rule that required calorie counts on fast-food menus. Rather than addressing the First Amendment claim made by the restaurants, he cited a conflict with federal law, thus chucking the rule on technical grounds.
A revision (an expansion, in fact) of the rule could make it comply with the federal guidelines for nutritional labeling, but it isn’t yet clear whether the rule will be revised, appealed, or allowed to die. Regardless of the fate of the New York City rule, there’s a lot of other stuff popping up on the national radar screen that means this issue will stay lively for a long time:
Legislation similar to New York City’s is under way in 14 states where obesity rates have recently surged — Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Vermont.
Nutrition labeling legislation has also been introduced in Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington.
The Consumerist blog has a pretty cool mock-up (via the Center for Science in the Public Interest) of what a nutritionally informative Starbucks menu board might look like; the blog Weighty Matters lashes out against the industry claim that labeled menus would be too confusing for diners:
So just how stupid does McDonald’s think you are that posting calories on menus will be confusing? Do you get confused each week when supermarket fliers report new sale prices? Does the half off rack at the clothing store give you seizures? Do you eat glue? Ummm, that 410 number beside the quarter pounder….does that mean it’s $410? That sure seems like a lot for a burger.