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Nutritional Labeling Laws: We Need Them in Restaurants

Nutritional Labeling Laws: We Need Them in Restaurants

With this new legislations, menus will have caloric values of food.

Bonnie Miller Rubin | Chicago Tribune

Travel isn’t just about exploring iconic sites or art treasures; it’s about food. Years later, what I may remember best about a place is that perfect piece of pie or creamy gelato.

So you can understand how my pulse quickened when I spotted Ivar’s, a much-touted seafood joint on Seattle’s waterfront. The aroma of grease mingling with the sea air beckoned to me in a way the Space Needle did not.

That is, until I perused the menu. There, staring back at me, were the calories for every selection.

That fish-and-chips platter I had been dreaming about? A stratospheric 833 calories – more than half a typical day’s allotment. My enthusiasm deflated faster than, well, a souffle in a draft.

Somehow, when planning this vacation, I had missed that King County (which includes Seattle) had recently implemented mandatory on-the-menu calorie counts.

While the law currently applies only to chains with 15 or more outlets, it surfaced often enough that I had to pay attention. Throughout the week, I was amazed how such in-your-face data steered my eating habits, starting with a quick shift from the Ivar’s velvety clam chowder in a bread bowl (768 calories) to a more virtuous tomato-based version (163) in a cup.

The experience also raised my awareness of the noisy national debate over the merits of such labeling laws.

Some in the restaurant industry are bristling about expense, burdensome regulations and how all those numbers clutter up prime real estate on a menu. Still others say pending federal legislation lets too many eateries off the hook, while citizens across the political spectrum are raising questions about personal responsibility.

“Is there really anyone out there,” sputtered one Chicago radio host, “who doesn’t know that deep-dish pizza is more fattening than a salad?”

Actually, it’s not, if you ladle on the Roquefort dressing, bacon and croutons.