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California Chain Restaurants Must Serve Calorie Counts Under New Law

From M.S. Enkoji of The Sacramento Bee (www.sacbee.com): Dining at some restaurants will be a new experience starting today, when California becomes the first state to require that chain restaurants supply calorie counts for virtually everything they serve.

"Consumers should be able to make informed decisions about their health and it will raise the consciousness of how much we eat," said John Rogers,Sacramento County environmental health division chief.

There will be no guessing – or denial – about that double Western Bacon Cheeseburger from Carl's Jr.: 960 calories. Side of Chili Cheese Fries to go with that? 990 calories. Maybe stick to the fried zucchini at 330 calories?

The new law requires restaurants with at least 20 stores in California – about 17,000 locations statewide – to provide a brochure on site listing calories, sodium, saturated fat and carbohydrates for each menu item. Both sit-down and drive-through restaurants must comply.

Drive-through menus must notify customers that the information is available at the pickup window.

A second phase, effective January 2011, will require restaurants to list calorie counts directly on menus or menu boards.

Alcoholic drinks aren't included. Also, at restaurants that serve only buffets, such as Hometown Buffet, you'll be on your own.

Menu labeling was conceived as a way to help customers make choices, said Rogers. His department conducts restaurant inspections, which will include monitoring for proper menu labeling.

Consider this information from Rogers' department: An estimated one-third of all calories ingested by Americans are from restaurant food, and studies show that diners will shave off as much as 100 calories a meal when presented with calorie counts. FULL STORY

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