Food facts now on county menus

Restaurant patrons in San Mateo County will know before ordering how many calories are in their Whopper because of an ordinance approved Tuesday — which officials expect will be served with a lawsuit.

Restaurants will have to post the number of calories and the amount of trans and saturated fats, carbohydrates and sodium underneath or next to a food item’s listing on a menu or overhead menu board under the ordinance approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

It will apply to locations in unincorporated areas that have at least 15 total restaurants in California. Supervisor Jerry Hill, who proposed the law along with Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, said he would send the ordinance to the county’s cities for their individual consideration. Daly City councilman Sal Torres proposed a similar ordinance in his city just hours after the county measure’s approval Tuesday.

The ordinance was modeled after ones already in place in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties. The California Restaurant Association, which represents the state’s eateries, recently filed lawsuits against both of those counties. The group claims the ordinances violate restaurants’ First Amendment rights and pre-empts state and federal law, which do not require the posting of nutritional information.

“They will undoubtedly sue us,” said Hill, who met with the group recently. “We feel our ordinance will survive that challenge. … They’re bogus arguments.”

Restaurant association spokesman Daniel Conway said it had not made any decision Tuesday on whether to sue San Mateo County.

Aug. 31 is the deadline for the state Legislature to approve two competing pieces of menu-labeling legislation, AB 2572 and SB 1420. One is similar to the county’s ordinance and the other, which the restaurant group supports, forces eateries to make available a book of nutritional information.

Torres said his Daly City ordinance would be discussed for the first time at the Aug. 25 City Council meeting.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

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