LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Los Angeles residents are notorious for worrying about their waistlines and if two Los Angeles County Supervisors have it their way, calorie counting while dining out in the city may get easier.
Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Michael Antonovich will present a proposed ordinance to the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors next week that would force fast-food chains and restaurants to display the number of calories alongside the price of items on their menus.
The proposed law is intended to decrease obesity among adults and children in America’s second-largest city.
While Los Angeles has a reputation as a mecca of diet and exercise crazes, the county’s Department of Public Health says residents are less fit than many realize.
The percentage of obese adults in Los Angeles County increased 46 percent over eight years, to 20.9 percent in 2005 from 14.3 percent in 1997, according to the department.
“The menu should be as informative of what its effect is on one’s waistline as it is on their pocketbooks,” Yaroslavsky said. “Not ingesting 800 calories in a meal makes a huge difference to one’s health and quality of life.”
New York already has a similar ordinance in place. Fast-food and casual-dining chains in the Big Apple can be fined $2,000 for not displaying calorie counts.
The California Restaurant Association, an industry trade group, is skeptical about whether the ordinance will actually tackle L.A’s obesity problem.
“If we’re going to fight obesity we need to teach folks about nutrition and proper eating,” CRA spokesman Daniel Conway said. “I question whether this ordinance will have a real meaningful impact on people’s behavior in terms of what they eat and how much they exercise.”
The association has sued two Northern California counties for passing similar laws.
The industry group says its bill, which is to be voted on in the California legislature by the end of the month, will give restaurants statewide the choice of whether to make nutritional information available either on a brochure or in a menu.
“We recognize our customers do want this information, but most of the customers don’t want this information forced on them every time. It’s as much as a mandate on our customers as it is on our restaurants,” Conway said.