Friday, February 27, 2009

Nutrition Information on Menus in Indiana?

So, as Masson notes, nearly dead isn't dead, especially when it comes to the HB 1207 -- the nutritional data bill. I'm kinda shocked this passed the house. I mean, I *love* it! But Hoosiers love their chain food and their big portions. The bill, if it passes the Senate and the Governor signs it (and I'd think he would given his focus on health), requires chain restaurants to post ten specific details of nutritional data on each food item. Even better, it requires calorie and carbohydrate counts to be printed by each dish on the menu. Bravo!

Seattle's menu labeling law just went into effect. NYC instituted menu labeling requirements for chains with more than 15 restaurants in 2007. Restaurants and the New York Restaurant Association sued and lost -- twice. Just last week, an appeals judge upheld the decision. Indiana's law would affect restaurants with 20 or more locations in Indiana. The NYC law wasn't without problems -- for both small chains and the fast food giants -- but it was the first to require calorie counts right on the menu.

I'm surprised restaurants and business haven't been making a public push against the measure due to the tough economic times and the heavy saturation of chains in Indy -- especially on the north side. And what about higher end offerings? Ruth's Chris or Capital Grille (33 or so locations at last count)? Of course, fighting against the bill is a hard PR sell. Why make it difficult for people to see the reality of what they're eating -- especially in a state with a weight problem?

Will it change what I eat if I see right in front of me "Lobster mac and cheese: Cal: 3500. Carb: there aren't enough zeros"? Absolutely. And health advocates are banking it will for you two. I suspect the issue will heat it up when it hits the Senate floor. I have a funny feeling there's going to be a slim chance of passage. But wouldn't it be great?!

Update: Important error on my part -- this bill applies to chains with 20 or more restaurants in Indiana. So, really? Fast food and some fast casual -- like Qdoba, Buffalo Wild Wings (I'm guessing), and others.

11 comments:

Greg said...

Why only for chains? Is it because to find the nutritional content of food dishes, you'd have to send a sample off to a lab?

Is there a device that would allow you to sample how much fat a meal contains?

Priorat said...

HB 1207 refers to chains with 20 or more w/in IN not nationwide, see Masson's detail below:

"The bill requires a food establishment with 20 or more locations in Indiana to make certain nutritional information available to customers for each item or unit of food."

braingirl said...

Oops! Very important clarification. Thanks! read: Fast food.

silver said...

And Steak n Shake. Yowza. Can we also have the option of a menu WITHOUT calorie counts? Oh delicious Frisco Melt, I don't want to know....

Still Waiting said...

Everyone's menu is going to look like Cheesecake Factory and be 40 pages long!

Kristy "Greenthumb" Guthrie said...

I believe the nutritional info has to be posted somewhere, not necessarily just on the menu. Most chains with 20+ places already have this information available on the web...for example, McDonalds, Qdoba, Cold Stone, Chili's. For those who /want/ to know, the information should be available to them.

Mike said...

FRISCO MELT! Silver, you might wanna skip this..

I looked all this stuff up a while back and wrote about it - paraphrasing:

The Frisco Melt: 1173 calories, 93 grams of fat, 28.5 of which are saturated.

Let's compare that to McDonald's Big Mac, which is generally known as the sandwich standard of unhealth®.

The Big Mac: 560 calories, 30 grams of fat, 10 of which are saturated.

So the Frisco Melt is more than twice as bad as a Big Mac. That seems a little hard to believe, but let's keep going.

Miracle Whip (15 grams, about 1 tablespoon): 40 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 0.5 of which are saturated.

That means in order to get the same amount of calories that the Frisco Melt provides, you'd have to eat a little over 29 tablespoons of pure Miracle Whip. To get the fat number, it's 26.57 tablespoons of Miracle Whip. But the most impressive number is the saturated fat number. It would take 57 tablespoons of Miracle Whip to equal the saturated fat in the Frisco Melt.

You might say to yourself "Fifty seven tablespoons sounds like a lot, but that's just a number... what does that actually look like?" Well, it looks surprisingly like a 32 ounce jar of Miracle Whip. And that would be because there are only 64 tablespoon sized servings in a 32 ounce jar of Miracle Whip. So the Frisco Melt is only 7 tablespoons short.

Having said all that (and knowing the dangers involved), the last time I was at Steak N' Shake I had a Frisco Melt. And a cup of chili (more scary numbers I wont get into). And Fries.

And a shake.

Then I went home and took a bike ride.

* * * * *

I'd say having that info is a good thing.

silver said...

Oh, I'm under no illusions that the Melt is health food, believe me. And I think the last time I went to SNS was at least three years ago. Maybe I'm due.....

Erin said...

When was the last time anyone held a menu in their hands from a fast food place? There aren't many (any?). So that means the data will go overhead on the menu board and on the drive thru sign? Seems pretty impractical and unlikely...

The alternative is printing the info on brochures (like Taco Bell does, i.e.) and making them available near the register. But that does not have NEARLY the impact that putting the stats right on a (hand held) menu would. Most people would never look or know to look at little pamphlets.

braingirl said...

Actually, if you read nay of the news reports about how this is implemented in NYC, you'll see pictures of fast food menu boards with the data -- and it's pretty effective and compelling. Just sayin'.

braingirl said...

Actually, if you read nay of the news reports about how this is implemented in NYC, you'll see pictures of fast food menu boards with the data -- and it's pretty effective and compelling. Just sayin'.