Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Does Nutrition Have a Place on the Menu?

In recent months the restaurant industry has been up in arms over the talk and passage of menu labeling laws that have begun to sprout up all over the country. What started in New York has now spread to 8 other cities, counties, and states across the country, and has caused quite a rift between restaurants and health advocates.

On the one hand health organizations like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the American Cancer Society argue that something has to be done about the American obesity epidemic. With people eating out more than they are eating in, and the average restaurant meal providing more fat and calories than the average home cooked meal, these health enthusiasts are looking towards restaurants to help educate consumers about healthier choices. And, with costly health conditions like diabetes and other obesity-related diseases on the rise, who wouldn’t want to nip the issue of obesity in the bud?

Some restaurants on the other had argue that America’s obesity epidemic is not their fault, and not their responsibility; and that providing nutrition information may not have any impact on people’s ordering habits. They argue that people go out to eat to enjoy a delicious prepared meal, and to forget about the calories; after all people already know that double cheeseburger isn’t that good for them.

The arguments for both sides are continuous. I can sympathize with both sides: as a dietitian I am concerned for the consumers’ health, but at the same time worried that upon receiving this information, they will still make the cheesier and deep fried decision even with calorie counts. I also understand that turning a kitchen into a calorie counting laboratory is not at all convenient for operators, but at the same time, wonder if it’s the consumer’s right to know.

So fellow FohBohers, what’s your take on the menu labeling situation? Should restaurants see providing nutrition information as a competitive advantage, and an opportunity to innovate their menus, or as a business a threat to their signature items?

As your resident nutrition expert FohBohist expect more nutrition-related posts and discussions from me.

Boun Appetit!


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