Seek calories on fast food menu boards

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) wants to help you count calories - whether you want to or not.
With a growing concern for the nation’s obesity issue, the Health Department wants to implement a citywide system that mandates chain restaurants like McDonald’s to disclose the caloric content of their food items on their menu board. The DOHMH believes an informed customer would make a healthier decision when deciding what to eat.
“Obesity and diabetes are the only major health problems that are getting worse, and getting worse rapidly,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. “Posting calorie information will help people make healthier choices about what to eat and drink - and live longer, healthier lives.”
In 2006, the DOHMH adopted a similar calorie-listing plan that required restaurants to disclose calorie information next to the listing of each menu item, but did not require the numbers to be displayed as prominently as either the menu item’s name or price.
Additionally, a federal judge ruled the provision, as written, was preempted by federal regulations in a September 2007 lawsuit brought by the New York State Restaurant Association against the DOHMH. Because of the suit, restaurants did not display calorie content in places where customers would be able to see them.
“Chain restaurants are failing to inform consumers about the calorie content of their food,” said Dr. Frieden in announcing the new plan. “Although some chains claim they have worked hard to make calorie information available to customers, New Yorkers tell us that they did not see it. Without this information, people can’t make informed choices.”
Moreover, the DOHMH found that uninformed people generally underestimated the amount of calories in the food they eat. In the study, nine out of 10 people underestimated the calorie content of less healthy meals by an average of 600 calories. However, when people saw the actual amount of calories they bought 92 fewer calories on average.
Queens residents greeted the proposed plan with optimism.
“I think the plan is a good idea and will definitely help control the obesity issue,” said Tirrell DeGannes, a Bayside resident. “It’ll especially help parents make better decisions and likely make them give their kids something healthier as they’re always self-conscious for their children.”
Another Bayside resident, Lucille Link, said it would not help people who are already health conscious who avoid chain restaurants, but would almost certainly change the minds of those who are uninformed. She also said the plan would perhaps alter some of the menu items.
“Maybe we’ll see the end of the Whopper as we know it,” Link said.
New Yorkers are invited to voice their opinion on the proposed plan at a November 27 public hearing located in the second floor auditorium at 125 Worth Street in Manhattan.
The DOHMH will vote on the plan in January following the hearing and if adopted, the regulation would go into affect on March 31, 2008 affecting about 10 percent of all New York City restaurants.

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