For nearly a year now, posted fast food menus in New York City have become even more cluttered with numbers—not just prices, but calorie counts. And if Governor Deval Patrick has his way, Massachusetts may be next to follow suit.
Since April of 2008, any New York restaurant considered a “chain” (with 15 or more locations nationwide) has been required to display the calorie count of each item, on both posted and written menus. The mandate was intended to provide more information to restaurant patrons, with the idea that staring down calorie totals will help prompt wiser and more health-conscious decisions. While some restaurants complied more willingly than others, city diners now confront often-stunning caloric numbers on a daily basis—from 600-calorie Dunkin-Donuts muffins and Frappuccinos, to 700-calorie smoothies, to 1200-calorie Chipotle burritos: all foods that many consider “healthy.”
Where New York City goes, others soon follow. In October, California became the first state to sign calorie counts into legislation; by 2011, all restaurants with more than 20 nationwide locations must post nutritional information. In a recent State of the State address, New York governor David A. Paterson called for all of New York to follow New York City’s example. And just this week, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick announced an anti-obesity campaign
that similarly requires all Massachusetts chains to list calories on menus and menu boards. If the measure passes the state’s Public Health Council, as it is expected to do, Massachusetts diners will be faced with calorie counts next fall.
While some tout the posting of nutritional information as a smart way to counter the nation’s growing obesity epidemic by empowering customers to make informed decisions, other consider the information arbitrary and unnecessary—arguing that it places an unfair burden on restaurants, and flaunts numbers that diners may wish to ignore.
What are your thoughts? Should restaurants be required to post calorie counts?