Massachusetts to Require Menu Calorie Counts for Chains

The Massachusetts rules extend the requirement to drive-through lanes, which account for about half of fast-food sales and are exempted under the California rules.

The move is the latest in government efforts aimed at altering eating habits to combat the U.S. obesity epidemic. Philadelphia has also imposed menu-calorie postings. And earlier this week, the Senate Finance Committee disclosed that it is considering imposing a national tax on sodas and other sweetened beverages.

Restaurants have opposed menu-calorie mandates, saying they infringe on freedom of speech and are pre-empted by national nutrition-labeling laws, which don't impose such a requirement on restaurants. A federal appeals court upheld New York City's labeling law against such arguments earlier this year.

New York City's regulation is the only one to take effect so far. The Massachusetts regulation, which applies to chains with at least 20 restaurants in the state, will take effect in November 2010. Restaurants must post the number of calories in each menu item near the menu listing or price.

Advocates say they hope that posting calorie counts will lead consumers to make healthier eating choices, although evidence so far is scant on that point. About two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to McDonald's Corp.'s Web site, a Big Mac with a large fries and Coke is 1,350 calories. A Starbucks Corp. venti caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream and a blueberry scone come to 980 calories. Federal health guidelines recommend consumption of 1,600 to 2,400 calories a day for non-exercising adults.


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