Calorie-counting measure on menu

If San Mateo County supervisors have their way, residents will know just how many calories and fat grams are entering their bodies before the first bite of Quarter Pounder touches their lips.

Following in the footsteps of San Francisco and Santa Clara, county lawmakersare drafting legislation requiring chain restaurants to post such nutritional information as calorie counts on their menus.

Recommendations for an ordinance will come before the supervisors’ Housing, Health and Human Services Committee on June 3, and will head to the full board within the next two months, Supervisor Jerry Hill said.

The law would affect the 14 or 15 chain restaurants in the county’s unincorporated areas, but its reach could eventually extend countywide.

“We’re looking for something that would be easy for the cities to adopt,” Hill said. “Our goal is to send it out to the cities and see if there’s an interest.”

Hill said the law would empower people to make informed choices while dining out, which is one way to combat obesity.

While the specifics of the legislation are still unclear, San Mateo County’s ordinance will closely resemble those of its neighbors to ensure consistency, Hill said.

San Francisco’s ordinance, which takes effect next month, affects restaurants with more than 20 locations in the state. Santa Clara’s law, which has not yet been passed, includes restaurants with 14 or more locations.

The San Francisco law requires that printed menus include calories, saturated fat, carbohydrates and sodium. Santa Clara’s proposed legislation also includes trans fats.

Kevin Westlye, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said listing that much informationon a menu is an unreasonable expense for restaurants, and may be confusing to the public.

“If you’re looking to alert the mass of diners that eat out to healthier eating choices, calories would be the most understood indicator,” he said.

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science and the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, said only about half of chain restaurants provide nutritional information, usually online or in brochures.

“It’s like posting speed limits by putting little pamphlets on the side of the highway,” she said.

Obesity expert Helen Lee, research fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California, said there were no studies to suggest posting clear nutritional information cuts down on obesity.

“Maybe with that knowledge they’ll make a better decision,” Lee said. “At the same time, you can argue that people are going to a chain restaurant because they want a burger and fries instead of a salad.”

tbarak@sfexaminer.com  

businessLocalScience & TechnologyScience and Technology

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Crowded neighborhoods left out of Slow Streets

Tenderloin, SoMa seen as bad fit for car-free program

Parents press for in-person options, better distance learning as Board of Education weighs fall plans

With distance learning looking likely to continue in the fall semester, some… Continue reading

City attorney seeks to block contractor in Nuru scandal from obtaining government contracts

City Attorney Dennis Herrera has moved to prohibit AzulWorks, Inc. and its… Continue reading

Supes approve $2.1M settlement over sewage spills at SF’s Hall of Justice jail

San Francisco has tentatively agreed to pay out a total of $2.1… Continue reading

US backs down in fight with Harvard, MIT over student visas

The U.S. backed down from a high-profile confrontation with two elite universities… Continue reading

Most Read