* Rules apply to drive-through windows
* Regulations take effect Nov. 10, 2010
By Jason Szep
BOSTON, May 13 Massachusetts approved the
toughest statewide restaurant menu labeling rules in the United
States on Wednesday, requiring major chain restaurants to
display the calorie content of the food they sell.
The regulations, designed to combat rising obesity, are
more comprehensive than those in California, which in September
became the first state with menu labeling rules for fast-food
restaurant chains such as McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) and Yum
Brands'(YUM.N) KFC, advocates of healthy foods say.
Approved by the Massachusetts Public Health Council, the
rules will require restaurant chains with 20 or more in-state
locations to post calorie counts next to each item on their
menus or menu boards, including those at drive-throughs.
The requirements take effect Nov. 1, 2010, and will apply
to 50 restaurant chains with a combined 5,800 locations.
"This is a major step in the right direction in fighting
the obesity epidemic in our state," Massachusetts Department of
Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach said in a statement.
More than half of the adults in Massachusetts are
overweight or obese, according to a 2008 state report that also
showed adult obesity more than doubling in 20 years. About 33
percent of Americans are overweight, while more than 34 percent
are obese, according to U.S. government figures.
A restaurant calorie information rule took effect in New
York City last year, and more than a dozen states are
considering similar provisions.
Unlike California, the Massachusetts regulations will cover
items at restaurant drive-through windows. About 65 percent of
fast food is purchased at drive-through windows, said Judy
Grant, campaign director of the healthy food advocacy group
Massachusetts also will not override regulations in
municipalities that impose even stricter labeling rules at
fast-food restaurants, she added. In California, for example,
menu labeling rules passed in San Francisco, Santa Clara and
San Mateo counties were nullified by the state law.
Grant said those two features make the Massachusetts rules
the most stringent of any state in the country.
Some restaurant companies have objected to additional
government regulations. In New York City, for example, some
have fought the menu labeling rules with lawsuits.
Many chains instead support proposed legislation in the
U.S. Congress known as the "Lean Act" that would require
restaurants and grocery stores that serve prepared food to post
the calories on a sign on the same wall as a menu board or as a
supplement to or insert in a menu.
Critics of that legislation say it would merely tuck
calorie information at the back of menus or in a separate
brochure. They say consumers need to know the nutritional value
of meals because more people than ever are dining out.
(Editing by Terry Wade)