California OKs Soft Rollout Of State Menu-Labeling Rules

Common sense has won out in dueling menu-labeling laws in California, where a Jan. 1 law required all chains with 20 or more locations to post calories on menus and menu boards. Los Angeles County joined most other counties in the state in saying they won’t be strictly enforcing the measure, passed two years ago, because federal guidelines set to be released in March will supersede the state regulations.

"These restaurant operators should not have to make up new menu boards and then make them again in March," said Angelo Bellomo, director of environmental health for Los Angeles County. However, the Los Angeles Times reported this week that chains, including McDonald’s, IHOP and Fuddrucker’s, had already installed new menu boards which included calorie counts.

State regulators had already recommended that local enforcement agents give covered chain restaurants a six-month “educational period” to come up to speed on Phase 2 of the state’s menu-labeling law, rather than face fines for noncompliance. Phase 1, requiring covered restaurants to make nutrition information available at the point of sale, took effect a year ago.

The federal regulations will cover more restaurant chains and more items, including alcoholic beverages. U.S. officials have not said whether the calorie numbers on menu listings will have to be displayed differently. More information, including updated menu-labeling guidelines and specifics of the California law, are at the Emerging Matters section of calrest.org.

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