S.F. supervisor fights obesity

February 7, 2008 7:29:51 PM PST
A San Francisco supervisor wants the city to fight obesity, with a new law that will force fast food restaurants to list nutritional information from each item on the menu, and why that could help people make better choices.

Going to eat at McDonald's?

Which of these items has the most calories: Two Big Macs, two egg McMuffins, one large chocolate shake or four regular hamburgers?

According to a field poll most of us think it's the Big Macs, but the correct answer is the chocolate shake with 1,160 calories.

Those misperceptions are one reason behind the push to force fast food restaurants to put nutritional information on their menus.

Dr. Nadine Burke works in the Bayview neighborhood.

"Low income neighborhoods have a higher proportion of fast food restaurants and also bear the burden of obesity nationwide," said Dr. Burke.

She spoke at a public hearing on Thursday, called by supervisor Tom Ammiano. He's sponsoring a measure that would apply to fast food chains, those with 14 or more restaurants in California, from Burger King to Starbucks.

Right on the menu they would have to spell out the number of calories for each item, the grams of saturated fat, grams of carbohydrates and milligrams of sodium.

"The government is not telling people what to eat. It's the government's place to make sure that consumers are informed about the healthier of their choices," said Dr. Rajiv Bhatia from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

The California Restaurant Association is strongly opposed.

"We know people want the information and we do not have a problem providing it. We just would like to see it uniform throughout the state," said Johannise Downs from the California Restaurant Association.

But they were also opposed to a state measure last year that was eventually vetoed by the governor.

The local restaurant association is not yet taking a stand, hoping to cut a deal.

"We'd like to see a good first step be calories only in all restaurants," said Kevin Westlye from the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

If the ordinance is passed, it could take affect as early as July of this year.