Menu Labeling Law Passes in California

Following Governor Schwarzenegger’s signature of SB 1420, California became the first state in the country to require menu labeling for nutritional purposes. The bill will require all of California’s 17,000 restaurants to list calorie counts. This is in response to the state population’s increasing obesity rate.

The legislation contains a two-year phase-in period, where brochures listing nutritional information including caloric value, grams of saturated fat, carbohydrates and sodium milligrams will be required by July 1, 2009 and on menus and indoor menu boards by January 1, 2011. Only restaurants with 20 or more locations will be affected.

The legislation was inspired by a Field Research Corporation poll highlighting how only 10 percent of state residents were able to pick the healthiest item from a short list of the most common fast foods. Authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles) with Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) and Assembly Members Marc DeSaulnier (D-Concord) and Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), actual sponsorship came from the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and the American Cancer Society.

“Menu labeling is good common sense,” says Dr. Harold Goldstein of the CCPH. “Just like smoke-free restaurants, I expect menu labeling will quickly sweep the nation as other states recognize the benefit of providing consumers with basic nutrition information. Menu labeling by itself won’t end the obesity epidemic, but it sure is a good place to start.”