By 2009, major restaurants in California will be required to serve up nutritional information in addition to their food.
Senate Bill 1420, signed last week by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, requires restaurant chains with 20 or more locations in California to post nutrition information on menus and indoor menu boards by Jan. 1, 2011. By July 1, 2009, restaurants must provide brochures with either caloric content information or other nutritional information, such as grams of saturated fat, grams of carbohydrates and milligrams of sodium at the point of sale, including drive-thrus.
SB 1420 is a step in the right direction. Rather than having a jumble of local ordinances, it creates a uniform state standard for displaying nutritional information. Additionally, for larger chain restaurants affected by the bill such as Starbucks and McDonald‘s, a single regulation shouldn‘t sink business, and the bill could also prompt them to reconsider their more unhealthy, calorie-laden menu items. The 20 restaurant minimum is ideal because smaller business owners may not be able to afford to have their ingredients and recipes evaluated for nutritional content.
An increasing number of people are being diagnosed with serious health issues associated with fatty foods – cancer, obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes among others. These medical conditions have put an enormous burden on California’s healthcare system. SB 1420, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), was designed to combat these trends.
The goal behind SB 1420 is to create an informed dining public. A change to wiser eating habits could reduce the risk of these symptoms and also reduce the costs of health care needed to treat them.
According to a study from the Department of Public Health, 10 percent of diners ordered reduced-calorie meals in restaurants with nutritional postings. With the nutritional information easily on-hand, diners will be able to make healthier eating choices.