Friday, March 6, 2009

Metro chain restaurants must add caloric information to menus

Channel 2 News WKRN Trying to calculate exactly how many calories are in your food when dining out can be a mystery, but not for much longer. All chain restaurants in Davidson County will be required to post calorie counts on their menus by March 2010. The Metro Board of Health approved menu labeling in a meeting Thursday afternoon. Restaurants with 15 locations or more will print caloric information for each item on the menu. That includes food and drinks, but not alcohol. For Terri Ray, who says she has long struggled with her weight, the new, informative menus will be a needed change. "I've had lifelong problems with obesity. Mainly because we're just not educated in what's healthy and what's not healthy," says Terri Ray. Ray had gastric bypass surgery in 2005. "I didn't know what to eat. I was scared to eat anything. I didn't know what was in it," she said. Although many restaurants must follow the menu-labeling mandate, entertainment venues like movie theatres and stadiums are exempt. That's an exemption that some say shouldn't exist. "Movie theatres are a minefield of calories, same as a lot of the stadiums and people do go there for meals and they don't understand how many calories they're consuming," says Joan Randall with the Tennessee Obesity Taskforce. In a telephone survey conducted by the Metro Health Department earlier this year, 78% of the 400 residents surveyed at random supported posting calorie information on menus. Health officials agree that calorie counts will help people dining out make better decisions, but say it will take time and money for businesses to change. "From the health department's standpoint we think people want the information and the sooner the better," Dr. Bill Paul with the Metro Public Health Department told News 2. "From the restaurant's standpoint, it takes time because they are part of a larger organization and there are costs involved." New York City was the first in the nation to require chain restaurants to post calories on their menus and Seattle followed. All chain restaurants in California will have to post calorie counts on their menus come 2011.

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