Santa Clara County becomes the second Bay Area county to require chain restaurants to provide nutritional information about the items on their menu. San Francisco passed a similar ordinance in March.
"This is about empowering people," Supervisor Liz Kniss said. "If you choose to have the 1,100 (calorie) chocolate shake go ahead but people should have the information."
Supervisor Don Gage noted most chain restaurants in the region are not located within the county's jurisdiction. Instead they are under the authority of local cities.
"If you look at the number of these types restaurants in the county, it's between six and eight," Gage said.
Gage voted for the ordinance but he echoed the comments of several local members of the restaurant industry who said they are concerned about having to comply with a different set of requirements in each city or county.
"I would like to see a more uniform process," Gage said.
Gage would have preferred that the county wait and see if two bills requiring menu labeling currently in the Legislature pass and are signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger later this year.
State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, is the author of one of the bills. He authored a similar bill last year that was passed by the Legislature but vetoed by Schwarzenegger. He spoke at this morning's meeting and told the supervisors that their ordinance was necessary to help convince Schwarzenegger.
"Your affirmative vote here will help our cause at the state level," Padilla said.
Padilla expects that Schwarzenegger will be much more receptive to his bill this year both because of the actions of San Francisco and Santa Clara counties and because New York City has passed and successfully implemented a similar ordinance.
"I cannot emphasize enough the city of New York. They have set a standard," Padilla said. "No longer is this a theoretical conversation. It's happening seamlessly, smoothly in New York. If it's working in New York for New Yorkers why not California."
Santa Clara County's ordinance is scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1.