Walk into a fast-food chain in New York City and you may have to face some tough facts about your meal choice. The truth may be harder to swallow than the food, as new rules are starting to be enforced to show calorie count next to the food item choice on menus. It's bad news for many - when one big Mac, medium fries and a medium soda holds over 1,100 calories.
After months of resistance, the city's chain restaurants have begun obeying a first-of-its-kind rule requiring them to post calorie counts right on the menu. Two chains, McDonald's and Burger King, were among the first to unveil these new menu boards Friday at scores of locations throughout the city. This calorie information had long been available on Web sites, but the NY City rules now puts it right in front of your face as you order.
It takes some serious chutzpah to order a grande mint mocha chip frappuccino with whipped cream at Starbucks when you find out that it packs a bigger caloric punch than a double cheeseburger. This is seriously going to impact the amount of fast food and beverages that people consume. Even if you aren't a dieter, when the information is put so dramatically in front of you, you are influenced to eat and drink less.
The new rules are part of an anti-obesity campaign that has also included a recent citywide ban on artificial trans fats in restaurant food. The regulation was first passed in 2006 but was redrafted after a court battle struck down the original version. The post-the-calories rule took effect in May, but legal action delayed enforcement until now. Starting Saturday, chains big enough to fall under the rule will face penalties of up to $2,000 per store for not disclosing calorie information in a prominent spot on their menus, preferably next to the price.
In some restaurants, the numbers are hard to read up on the menu board. It appears that many restaurant owners are complying, but just barely.
Still -- this is an idea that I'd like to see implemented everywhere. The US exports fast food to all corners of the globe, and some cultures have seen the increased obesity numbers and put two and two together. Let's hope they start to demand what New York does . . . Perhaps we can still whip this Fast Food industry into shape.