More information for Philadelphia diners

    Officials want Philadelphia residents to know the nutritional price they pay when they eat french fries or a donut.

    Mandatory menu labeling has arrived in Philadelphia, and the regulation’s sponsor, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, says she’s proud the city will have the strictest rule in the nation.
    (Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leunix/ / CC BY-SA 2.0)

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    Similar laws in California and New York require restaurants to post calorie counts on menu boards. In Philadelphia, chain restaurants also must change their printed menus to list levels of fat, sodium and carbohydrates. Obesity researcher Gary Foster says many diners won’t be fazed by the new information but says “calorie sensitive” people may make different food choices.

    Foster directs the Center for Obesity Research Temple University.

    Foster:
    So for some people whether something costs $5 or $50, they want it, they’ll buy it. Some people whether there’s 500 calories or 50 calories won’t care. Some people won’t care about calories, but they’ll care about sodium. Some will care about sodium but won’t care about cholesterol.

    The Pennsylvania Restaurant Association lobbied to limit to the amount of required information. While other restaurant groups wanted to list nutritional information on separate brochures or the internet, but those attempts failed. Foster says nutritional information has the best chance to change habits if it is easily accessible at the moment of purchase.

    More 700 chain restaurants will need to post the nutritional information along with the price of each menu item. It’s not clear whether the change will make people eat better, but many health experts say it’s worth a try.

    Foster:
    I do think it’s a good idea given that we’re in the middle of an obesity epidemic.

    The law went into effect on January 1st but restaurants have a grace period to comply. Calorie counts should be posted on menu boards by February 1st. Other information such as salt content will be required in printed menus by April 1st.

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