Food Labeling Comes to Restaurants

Inside the health care reform bill was a nice little section that requires restaurants of 20 or more outlets to submit to calorie labeling on menus, menu boards and drive-through displays as well as vending machines.  Additional information will be available by request to consumers.

Calories of each food item appear on a McDonalds drive-thru menu in New York, Friday July 18, 2008. Several fast food chains say they have finally begun obeying a new city rule requiring some restaurants to post calorie counts right on the menu (AP Photo/Ed Ou) Original Filename: 0822_h_betteryou.jpg.jpg IPTC record 115: Albany Times Union

The bill exempts small businesses and doesn’t apply to “daily specials.”  The FDA has a year to propose specific regulations and then there will probably be some wrangling from there before they are finally implemented.

Calorie counts vary widely, “Coffee drinks can vary from 80 calories to 800 calories and burgers can range from 250 calories to well over 1,000 calories,” says CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan.

This bill will give us some information to choose more wisely.  Calories are just the first step, saturated fats, trans fats and sodium are not listed on menus but you’ll be able to ask your server for this information.

I honestly don’t know what all the hub-bub is about.  We’ve been reading labels in grocery stores for years.  This is just trying to do the same thing in restaurants.

Do you think this is a good idea?  Will you choose differently if you know what the calories counts are?  Do you think all restaurants should do it?  (There is simple software available these days to figure out calories per serving from recipes, it’s really no big deal.)

Let me know your thoughts,