April 17, 2008

Finally New Yorkers will know what they are eating

New York City has hundreds and thousands of rules and regulation. Those laws and policies control nearly every square inch of the world's busiest city. But until yesterday, there was no law allowing New Yorkers to know what they were eating. Oh sure, there are laws to keep the places clean and hopefully free from contiguous diseases, but to help you in your battle of the bulge, there was nothing the Health Department could do.

That changed when a judge ruled the city can require fast food restaurant chains to display calorie counts.

And by the way, what a bunch of post-digested pasture grass, are the industry's arguments:
  • it's too complicated,
  • it's too hard,
  • it's too flawed,
  • it's too patchwork,
  • it's too confusing,
  • it's too contradictory,
  • it's too local,
  • it's too much information on the menu...
The menu labeling regulation is designed to let you know the calories at the time you are eating the calories. No one is stopping anyone from eating a 1,169-calorie burrito from Chipotle. But I bet it will make you at least consider the burrito bowl at 489 calories instead.

And read the National Restaurant Association Chief Apologist's statement below. They are willing to put calorie information everywhere in the world, just not on the menu board where you might actually read it as you order. No, they say you should carry your laptop and access their website as you order (and that's not complex). Or you should carry around 25 different brochures and a calculator should you decide to visit a fast food place in the city (and that's not too flawed).

The food at McDonald's and Burger King is not as bad as the attitude of the industry. And the food is pretty bad.

The fast food industry is fighting tooth and nail to prevent you from seeing calorie information.

From Fox Business.com: "Today's ruling on the New York Board of Health's menu labeling regulation is extremely disappointing. Its flawed approach won't ultimately help consumers receive nutrition information that is useful to them," said National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney. "If this is allowed to go into effect, there could be a patchwork quilt of confusing and contradictory local regulation.

"A significant number of the largest chain restaurants in the country are already providing nutrition information in a host of different ways, and the trend is that more are offering detailed information in convenient formats every day - including brochures, posters, in-store computer kiosks and web sites.

"We are also seeing technology trends that are allowing consumers to access restaurant nutrition in new and innovative ways. The National Restaurant Association has partnered with HealthyDiningFinder.com, a search engine that allows consumers to find nutrition information from more than 55,000 restaurants across the country. And there are other products and programs that are allowing customers to access nutrition information from almost anywhere, through cell phone text messaging and other means.

"We are committed to working collaboratively with all parties to establish a uniform policy that provides consumers access to accurate and relevant information in a way that is meaningful to them."

From the NY Daily News: "A federal judge gave the city the green light on Wednesday to force fast-food chains to list calorie counts for items on menu boards - a change many New Yorkers welcomed.

'The more information the better,' said Barbara Kadish, 60, a retired teacher from Tudor City, Manhattan.

Carol Dawson, 58, of Flushing, Queens called the plan 'an excellent idea.' Too often, she said, she orders by 'the picture and my appetite. But this will raise my awareness.'

The Health Department has battled harsh resistance from fast-food favorites since it ordered them to post a menu item's calories alongside its price on bright menu boards.

The Health Department estimates the regulation will prevent at least 150,000 New Yorkers from becoming obese and 30,000 of them from developing diabetes in the next five years.

The policy is set to go into effect on April 22 but enforcement of fines won't begin until June 4.

"It doesn't hurt anyone to add the calorie information," said Joe Bermudez, 64, a retired economist who is borderline diabetic. "I have to be careful about what I eat."

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