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County to require calorie info on menus

Original post made on Jun 10, 2008

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors today approved a new ordinance requiring chain restaurants to provide calorie counts and other nutritional information about the items they sell on their menus.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008, 2:07 PM

Comments (21)

Posted by Dr. Valerie C. Kwai Ben, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2008 at 8:46 am

The American Heart Association applauds Santa Clara County for its recent passage of a menu labeling ordinance.
Two counties down, 56 more to go, and one pending state bill, SB 1420 by Senator Padilla. Menu labeling is already happening in New York City.
Diet and nutrition are vital elements of preventive health care. These days, the health of our youth is more compromised than ever, and this prevalence of chronic illness may very well jeopardize our kids' futures. At the current pace of weight problems, nearly 24 percent of U.S. children and adolescents will be overweight or obese by 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And yet research consistently shows that healthy and well-nourished children and youth are more likely to attend school and are more prepared and motivated to learn.
So, what is California waiting for? With the two recently passed Bay Area county ordinances (Santa Clara and San Francisco), it shouldn't be a question any longer if menu labeling can be done in California. It can be done, and it's time to support SB 1420. Hopefully, the Legislature passes the bill again and this time around it is signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rather than vetoed as it was last year.

Dr. Valerie C. Kwai Ben, M.D., FACC, FACP
President, Silicon Valley Board of Directors
American Heart Association
Chief, Cardiology Division
Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center, San Jose, CA

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:00 am

Do we have many chain restaurants in Palo Alto? I can think of a couple of McDonalds and a couple of Subways. We have many Starbucks, are these restaurants? We have two Peninsula Creameries, does that make it a chain?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:02 am

Oh, I forgot the Cheesehouse Factory. Still, anyone in their right mind knows that anything you get there is overloaded in size and calories! No one in their right mind would go there unless they want calories.

Posted by Walter E. Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:23 am

It is time to require ballots to list the IQ of all candidates.

Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 10, 2008 at 11:56 am

Is this all Liz Kniss and the Supervisors have to do? (They must own menu-printing companies.) It's a ridiculous waste these do-gooders are foisting on consumers--since we have to eventually pay for it with higher prices and higher taxes for enforcement. The nanny state is alive and thriving.

Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2008 at 3:09 pm

Anything that helps the consumer make an informed choice is good news for the free and open market lots of people claim they want. If these companies believed in the free market they'd have provided us this information voluntarily.

Ironic, ain't it? We need government intervention to make the free market ideal work.

Posted by CookedApple, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 10, 2008 at 4:00 pm

It will be interesting to see how the new menu labeling laws affect obesity rates. Regardless of the laws, customers are asking for this information. As a dietitian that provides restaurants with nutrition analysis ( I am continuously shocked by the amount of calories in the dishes served in restaurants. The liberating point is that this information is available, and we have the power to make decisions about what we order and how much of it we chose to eat.

Posted by GMC, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2008 at 4:40 pm

What do you think they mean by "chain?" all the fast food restaurants already have all the nutrition info readily available.
I'm glad that its available, and I have used it to make choices. In fact, this might be a good law in general, but it probably won't help the obesity crisis. Unless the law can make someone magically make better food choices, it won't make any difference. Of course, the law can't require that.

Posted by CaloricOverload, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:42 pm

R Wray:
"The nanny state is alive and thriving."

No, R, it's called the "information age" - providing for informed consumer choices based on facts.

As Paul alluded to, it's fixing the imperfect "free" market we have by making information available to buyers - read "Econ 101 for Dummies" to get yourself caught up on the concept.

Posted by Walter E. Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 4:26 am

How about listing the ingredients and their cost, adding a statement that staying home would be cheaper?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2008 at 9:22 am


Many of these fast food chains are so cheap that you can't eat the same at home for the same price unless you are really frugal. An example, Subway has a special deal on their footlong sandwiches for $5 while their regular 6" sandwich is only a dollar or so less. How can this pay them? For the amount of meat and veggies in a footlong plus the bread, I think I would find it hard to make it at home for $5. No, what they are doing is ripping off on the soda and chips which are no longer included in the deal. A large soda probably costs 10c to make, likewise a bottle of water or lemonade. The chips probably cost them 25c to buy in bulk, but they charge way more. They are more for getting customers in and then making their real money on the extras.

A real savvy Subway customer buys the drinks and chips at the supermarket or Costco in bulk, and then buys the sandwich to eat with it at Subway and then takes it back to their home, or desk.

Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 11, 2008 at 11:43 am

If enough of a restaurant's customers want the info, the restaurants would provide it without being forced to--it would be to their competitive advantage, Econ 101.
In this "information age" calorie estimates are readily available from many sources. There is no need to force menus to be dietitians' handbooks.
Forcing (government regulations) a market to be free is a contradiction. In this case it's only a photo-op for power-hungry politicians.

Posted by PerfectMarketLover, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 11, 2008 at 10:12 pm

R Wray:
"If enough of a restaurant's customers want the info, the restaurants would provide it without being forced to--it would be to their competitive advantage, Econ 101."

Yea, right, McDonalds and Burger King would provide that info without being forced into it. When pigs fly.

Ans as for "forcing (government regulations) a market to be free is a contradiction," what this actually is doing is forcing the free market to be more perfect by making information available to buyers. Don't you WANT more perfect markets or do you prefer keeping consumers in the dark (so you can hoodwink/rip them off)?

Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 12, 2008 at 9:57 am

Restaurants would supply the info if it is to their competitive advantage. Your point is baseless.
No, I don't believe in "perfect market theory". If you analyze the tenets of the theory, you will realize that it means NO competition. You recommended a book for me; here's one for you, "Market's Don't Fail" by Brian Simpson. Read something other than Marx.
Of course you realize that forcing the calorie count on menus is very likely only a first step in total government control. The government big brothers have already been successful in recipe changes. Next they will force limits on serving size and then force elimination of high-calorie items. I have heard that some want to make it illegal for restaurants to serve obese customers. Once these precedents are set there are no limits--remember the government-manufactured food in the book and movie, "Soylent Green".

Posted by Fast Food hater, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2008 at 10:04 am

I don't know about others, but I hate fast food anyway and calories on menus will not make a difference to me.

Most seriously overweight people I know are actually in denial. They make all sorts of excuses and some of them are valid. It is hard to know whether a Big Mac or a Chicken Sandwich has less calories, but will obese people realise the difference of a 100 or so calories in their diet?

Many people make poor decisions at fast food restaurants because they are in a hurry and because they are hungry. The better educated people are generally means that they are more likely to make better decisions at the point of sale.

These restaurants will still do good business regardless. The food is fast and cheap, two very big pluses when it comes to making a decision where to eat. If people didn't want the food, they would choose somewhere else. Making the restaurants do anything to make consumers make better choices has to be a good thing.

It won't make any difference to me, but it might to some and that makes it worthwhile.

Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 12, 2008 at 10:52 am

The advocates for regulation of restaurant menus are elitists. They think they know better and wouldn't need government controls for themselves, but they assume others are too stupid to take care of themselves need the supervision of the government.

Posted by JustWondering, a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2008 at 9:36 pm

So, R Wray, when I go into the grocery store, most (if not all) of the packaged items I see are labeled with similar information which I'm sure is a government mandate. Plus when it comes to cleaners and other chemical products, there are various gov't labeling requirements as far as warnings and hazardous ingredient listings as well. I take it that you are opposed to all such mandated labeling and let "the market decide" (i.e., "buyer beware")?

Posted by Walter E. Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2008 at 3:38 am

Let the market decide, if buyers select voluntariy labeled goods over those not labeled, the market will have truly decided, without coercion. It is the coercion, with its advancement of government, that I object to.

Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 13, 2008 at 12:16 pm

Yes, I am opposed to government-mandated labeling. It introduces force into the free market which I am opposed to on principle. But it doesn't work practically either. As you say, the mandated info is "similar information". It doesn't provide product differentiation and is usually bland with little value. It fosters a false dependence on government bureaucratic regulators. It sets mediocre limits and stifles innovation--the attitude is, if it's approved by the government, it must be good and I don't have to be concerned about it. The individual manufacturers and private testing organizations (think of expanded Consumer's Reports) would provide much better info. Also, manufacturers that meet the minimum government requirements can hide behind these legally. In a free market, they would have open responsibility for their products.

Posted by FullDisclosure, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 13, 2008 at 10:46 pm

R Wray,

This is NOT about any gov't approval - this is about giving people basic information on which they can then chose to make informed decisions.

Sort of like you and Walt using your names - it immediately informs the rest of us that we're about to get a really dumb-a__ opinion!

Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 14, 2008 at 9:45 am

Look at the title of this thread--the county IS government. And government is not just a debating club; it is an instrument of force. It doesn't "give" anything, contrary to what socialist, second-handers imagine.

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