Challenge? Bring it on!

by nicholmom3 on October 9, 2009

Times Free Press

By: Emily Bregel

Though a bill to force chain restaurants to display calorie counts stalled in Tennessee last year, and no similar bills have been introduced in Georgia, a consensus is growing nationally between the restaurant industry and health advocates.

For health advocates, nutritional content information allows consumers to choose a healthier lifestyle.

They believe that a front-and-center display highlighting the 800 calories in a Krystal BA Bacon and Cheese burger at least could dissuade some customers from making that kind of calorie-splurge a daily event, if not lead patrons to make an entirely different meal choice.

“No one wants to say you shouldn’t ever eat fast food, but it’s that moderation thing,” said Nancy Kennedy, executive director of the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership, a nonprofit organization focused on healthy lifestyles. “If you know how may calories and know the nutritional value, you’ll just make better choices.”

Both here and at the national level, the restaurant industry has resisted proposed legislation for nutritional labeling, saying it would burden chains with complicated requirements and clutter up their menu boards.

But with the proliferation of local laws mandating calorie displays, the restaurant industry has signed on to support national legislation that officials say is preferable to a patchwork of varying local statutes.

A Krystal spokesman said the company has no problem with full disclosure, since most of their customers probably don’t have any illusions about the nutritional content of fast food. Krystal, like many fast food chains, posts all its menu items’ nutritional information on its Web site.

“I think most people do their homework today and understand that some products have more nutritional value and some have more caloric input,” said Brad Wahl, a Chattanooga-based spokesman for Krystal.

But when it comes to the question of how to convey that information, the restaurant industry favors across-the-board regulations that won’t vary between states and cities and that won’t make it hard to read their menus, Mr. Wahl said.

The U.S. Congress is considering a compromise between two menu-labeling bills, one favored by health advocates and the other supported by the restaurant industry. The compromise proposal would require nutritional labeling of standard items at chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, but it would exempt some items such as daily specials.

“Let’s get consistent and certainly make sure we only put the information that really all consumers really want (on menu boards,)” Mr. Wahl said. “Why we support the national legislation is, certainly, we would like some simplified format.”


Last summer, New York City forced fast-food operators to add calorie counts to menu boards. Similar requirements have been added around Seattle and Portland, Ore., and in Westchester County in New York.

Davidson County in Tennessee is mandating that large chain restaurants within the county post nutritional information on their menu boards, said state health Commissioner Susan Cooper.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which advocates for menu labeling, 82 percent of New Yorkers surveyed after the city implemented a calorie-labeling rule said that the calorie counts on menus played a role in their choices.

“It appears that menu-labeling policies across the nation … have made an impact on individuals when choosing how to place an order when they eat out,” Ms. Cooper said. “It’s informed decision-making.”

In Tennessee, a modified version of last session’s menu labeling bill will be reintroduced this session, even while a national bill is considered, Ms. Cooper said.

“It’s too early for us to speculate about any legislation that might be introduced this next session here in Tennessee, because we’ll definitely want to keep an eye on what’s happening at the federal level,” she said.



One Krystal burger: 160 calories, 7 grams of fat

BA burger with Bacon and Cheese: 800 calories, 53 grams of fat

4Carb Sausage Scrambler: 600 calories, 51 grams of fat


Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich: 800 calories, 46 fat grams

Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich: 490 calories, 12 fat grams

Whopper: 670 calories, 40 fat grams

Double Whopper: 920 calories, 58 fat grams

Medium salted French fries: 480 calories, 23 fat grams


Chicken Ranch Taco Salad: 960 calories, 57 fat grams

Fresco Beef Soft Taco: 180 calories, 7 fat grams

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