Carlos Osorio/AP

Overseas Restaurants May Follow Calorie-Posting Trend of U.S. Eateries

October 29, 2008 03:58 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A health minister in England wants eateries there to follow the lead of U.S. restaurants by posting calorie counts on menus.

Will England Start Calorie Counting?

British Health Minister Dawn Primarolo has issued a call for England's restaurants to start posting calorie counts on their menus, according to U.K. paper The Daily Telegraph. Primarolo noted that a similar initiative has been declared a success in the United States, and said, "If it works for them why can't it happen here."

Obesity has been at the forefront of health officials' concerns in England for some time. Currently, one in four British adults is overweight or obese, and the situation is expected to worsen. "I know good diet isn't just about calorie content, and I know there will be difficulties for independent restaurants, but we have to start somewhere," Primarolo told The Daily Telegraph. "Why can't we have calorie content on menus in all chain restaurants?"

England is also trying to address the weight problems of its younger population. In August, the country rolled out a new plan to help reduce cases of childhood obesity.

Nashville Takes a Stand Against Obesity

Nashville, Tenn., may become the newest locale to require certain restaurants to include calorie information on their menus; it would also become the first southern city to do so. A public hearing will be held on Nov. 6 that could call for the initiation of the policy on Jan. 31, 2009, with a grace period of 90 days.

In Nashville, more than 60 percent of the population is overweight or obese, according to The Tennessean. In the state of Tennessee, 35 percent of youths are overweight or obese, while 13 percent are obese in Nashville, the article indicates.

Only restaurants with 10 or more outlets throughout the U.S. would be forced to comply with the regulation. The menus or menu boards would have to list the calories “in the same size type as the price,” according to The Tennessean. The restaurants would also have to alert customers that the recommended daily diet for adults consists of no more than 2,000 calories.

New York City and Philadelphia have already enacted similar requirements.

Background: Trans fat bans, and calorie accountability

To protect the health of California residents who frequently consume fast food, on July 25 Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law ordering all restaurants to eliminate the use of trans fats by Jan. 1, 2010. "Consuming trans fat is linked to coronary heart disease, and today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California," the governor said. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that trans fats are "causing several thousand deaths each year."

Although the ban was opposed by the California Restaurant Association, many restaurants have taken the initiative to ban trans fat on their own. McDonald's has switched to cooking french fries in oils free of trans fats in all restaurants in the U.S. and Canada. Jim Skinner, chief executive of the restaurant chain, said that by the end of the year, McDonald’s pies and other baked goods will be trans fat-free as well.

Wendy’s fast food restaurants switched to trans fat-free cooking in 2006, KFC and Taco Bell chains switched over last year, and Burger King has promised to switch to trans fat-free cooking by the end of 2008.

Trans fats can be found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The consumption of trans fats increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

The switch to healthier cooking oils seems to be part of a nationwide movement as health officials attempt to hold restaurants accountable for providing accurate nutritional information and healthy choices to customers.

In recent years, New York City and Philadelphia became the first U.S. cities to ban restaurants from serving foods with trans fats, and earlier this month, New York City health officials began citing chain restaurants that did not comply with a new law requiring them to post calorie counts on their menus. Other cities are talking about adopting similar laws.

Reference: Trans fats, nutrition guide


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