California First State in Nation to Pass Menu Labeling Law

Schwarzenegger Signs Historic Measure Putting Calories on Menu Boards


WASHINGTON—California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today signed landmark legislation that will put calorie counts on chain restaurant menus and menu boards. Though enacted in New York CitySeattle, and several other jurisdictions, California is the first state in the country to pass such a measure.

"Ten years from now, it will probably seem strange that once upon a time, chain restaurants didn't list calories on menus and menu boards for everyone to see," said Margo G. Wootan, nutrition policy director at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has been spearheading the menu labeling movement nationwide. "We hope that what California legislators and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have done is replicated in many other state capitals, and that it eventually goes nationwide."

The California menu labeling bill (SB 1420), sponsored by Senators Alex Padilla and Carole Midgen, applies to fast-food and other chain restaurants having 20 or more outlets in California and only to standardized menu items, not daily specials or customized orders. The bill goes into full effect in 2011, though between now and then restaurant chains will be required to make brochures with nutrition information available in their restaurants. The bill preempts cities and counties from enacting competing menu labeling provisions, as San Francisco and Santa Clara County have, though the bill’s advocates consider that a price worth paying given how many more people will now have access to calorie information.

"Restaurant diners in California will no longer have to guess when it comes to selecting meals for themselves and their children," Wootan said. "And California chain restaurants will have an incentive to add a wider range of healthy choices to their menus. It's great news for consumers."

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