IHOP menu in NYC
IHOP menu in NYC

It looks like the rest of America is going to follow the lead of NYC and enact legislation which will require chain restaurants to include a caloric breakdown for all their menu offerings.

Already, lawmakers in at least 17 states, including Illinois, have introduced bills that would require menu labeling. Chicago is one of a handful of cities considering citywide regulations.

In California, this issue is expected to come before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today.

If all goes smoothly, Los Angeleans will be able to count calories in their favorite restaurants by the end of the year.

Rene Lynch of the L.A. Times covers this in detail here.

Why is this happening?

You mean other than the fact that America (don’t forget Canada, Europe, Australia and even the Chinese) is getting fatter and fatter day after day after day.

How about some good old fashioned political pressure being applied by lobby groups.

Voila.

“A year ago, no one was doing this,” said Margo Wootan, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a public health group pushing for stronger menu labeling laws. “Now we’re seeing it more and more.”

Groups like the CSPI have persuaded lawmakers and public health agencies that chains with at least 10 restaurants can, and should, easily provide calorie and nutrition information to customers.

What do the restaurants think about these laws?

Well, the restaurant industry has resisted the laws, saying they’re too difficult to carry out, particularly in full-service restaurants where diners have choices.

“We want the customers to have the information. It’s just a challenge to present it so it’s of value to the guest,” said Patrick Lenow, a spokesman for the IHOP chain. “If you have a sandwich and you have your choice of hash browns, onion rings, french fries or fresh fruit, there’s a range of calories. How do you present that so customers aren’t reading a book?”

see Georgina Gustin’s article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for more info

Until recently, Lenow said, IHOP didn’t maintain a list of calorie or nutritional information because customers didn’t demand it, and because “obtaining the data is very expensive.”

Hmmmm, this sounds a little fishy to me.

Methinks that ‘lack of customer demand’ and ‘expensive data collection’ is just spindoctor speak for “Our Big Steak Omelette has almost as many calories as adult female needs for the entire day.”

mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.....I'm fat
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm good…..I’m Fat

But like it or not, it looks like caloric labeling on restaurant menus will soon become reality all across America.

So says the restaurateur:

“As the industry moves forward, and people are more and more health conscious, I believe consumers are going to start expecting that,” said Steve Conway of Imo’s Pizza.

So says the legislator:

“People don’t want to be fat or obese. Left to their own devices, people want to be healthy,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said. “Menu labeling is a powerful education tool. And information is power in the dietary world.”

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