News Column

Don't Be So Modest: New California Bill Exposes Chain Restaurant Menus

Oct. 2, 2008


California Bill Requires Calorie Count

Two out of every three American adults are overweight or obese, and the rate of obesity in children and teenagers has tripled since 1980, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Due to the increased rate of overweight and obese individuals in the U.S., California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger put pen to paper and signed Senate Bill 1420 on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008.

The bill will go into effect next July, requiring restaurants with 20 or more locations statewide to post calorie, fat, carbohydrate, and sodium contents on restaurant brochures.

Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) is the Los Angeles Democrat who proposed SB 1420, stating, "it's tough to eat better without information to make the best decisions ... the bottom line is that consumers have the right to know what's in their food," and with the passing of this bill, they will. " Mr. Padilla based this legislation on a similar law on the books New York City.

Gov. Schwarzenegger signed SB 1420, also referred to as the "menu-labeling bill," two months after approving legislation to prohibit restaurants from using trans fats by January 2010. Before becoming governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger was known for his serious health and fitness regiments and expertise. He held thirteen bodybuilding records and formerly served as chairman of both the President's Council on Physical Fitness & Sports and the California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness & Sports.

Starting January 2011, the nutritional content disclosure requirements outlined in SB 1420 will be modified, requiring restaurants to publicize the calorie content of their food products on menus and menu boards that are readily accessible.

Obesity is taking its toll on the public, resulting in significant health risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health issues that can arise from overeating include hypertension, osteoarthritis, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, as well as endometrial, breast, and colon cancers.

However, as with any other bill, some critics have voiced their concerns. Wendy's of Los Angeles said in a letter of opposition, "if the goal is to empower customers to make better informed decisions when dining out, the proposal should apply to all food service outlets in the state," claiming that this bill singles out certain chain restaurants.

Another issue is the additional costs that will arise from the passing of this bill. "Once again, the poor and middle class will pick up the tab for this extra cost," declared David Bradshaw, chairman of the Modoc County Board of Supervisors.

This new bill will not be applied to school cafeterias, grocery stores, farmer's' markets or all-you-can-eat buffets.

Restaurants that do not comply with SB 1420 can be fined up to $500 by local health inspectors.

Source: (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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