In coming months, anyone ordering a burger, chicken dinner, milk shake or other food item from a chain restaurant in Massachusetts will see more information on the menu board than how much the item costs.
By Nov. 1, 2010, all chain restaurants with 20 or more locations in Massachusetts will also have to include the number of calories on their menu items.
The rule, which was adopted by the Massachusetts Public Health Council in May, requires posting calorie information on all menus, both inside the restaurants and on drive-through menu boards.
Massachusetts is the second state to adopt a policy requiring menu labeling. California was the first, but its law does not include drive-through menu boards, making Massachusetts’ rule the toughest of its kind in the nation.
Several other states introduced legislation to require chain restaurants to post nutritional information, but no other bills have been adopted. New York City also has similar regulations. The rule in Massachusetts will apply to 50 restaurant chains accounting for nearly 6,000 locations, according to Reuters news service.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health points to the prevalence of obesity and Type II diabetes as the reasons for the new menu labeling requirement. More than 50 percent of adults and 25 percent of high school students in Massachusetts are overweight or obese.
“We know that providing this information will help our residents make more informed choices,” Massachusetts Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach said.
The National Restaurant Association complained in a policy statement about a patchwork of policies in cities and states related to posting nutritional information across the nation and called on Congress to adopt a single set of national standards for disclosure of nutritional information.
The restaurant group said it supports the Labeling Education and Nutrition Act—called LEAN—introduced in March by U.S. Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Companion legislation filed in the U.S. House—House Resolution 1398—also would require a uniform national standard for posting nutritional information on restaurant menus.