Menu law to show what’s for dinner

Diners in San Francisco will soon have a much clearer picture of what is in their meals.

More than 200 chain restaurants throughout San Francisco — from Starbucks to Pasta Pomodoro — will have to list the fat content of their foods and drinks on menus and menu boards, under a law unanimously adopted Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

San Francisco follows in the footsteps of New York City and Seattle, which have adopted similar laws known as “menu-labeling.”

Health advocates believe that if people can see how much saturated fat or sodium is in what they are ordering, they will make healthier choices.

With the nation facing high rates of obesity and diabetes, Supervisor Tom Ammiano, author of the bill, said, “it is incumbent upon us to combat these problems.”

The bill was approved in its first reading by the Board of Supervisors in a 10-0 vote, with Supervisor Jake McGoldrick absent.

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association, a group representing San Francisco restaurants, initially opposed the bill, but withdrew its opposition after Ammiano agreed to changes.

In board chambers Tuesday, Ammiano amended the bill to impact chain restaurants with 20 or more locations in the state, not 14 or more as originally proposed.

“There are some small local companies that will have a little more time to grow prior to being impacted by the ordinance,” said Kevin Westlye, executive director of the restaurant association.

Those companies include San Francisco Soup Company, with 15 locations, and Andale mexican restaurant, with nine locations. Westlye estimated that the amendment spares about 25 restaurants, at this point, from having to label their menus. The menu labeling could cost business thousands of dollars in one-time costs, he said.

The law would require chain restaurants to display the calories for each item listed on menu boards. For each item on the menu, the total amount of icalories, saturated fat, carbohydrates and sodium must be listed. All of the information must be in letter size as prominent as that used to list the food item.

Restaurants found in violation would face penalties up to $500 per offense. A $350 charge of their business permits would also be assessed to pay for enforcement.

“It is one of those pieces of legislation I think that is really going to benefit everybody, families in particular,” Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier said.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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