All restaurants should post nutritional information on menus

All restaurants should post nutritional information on menus

All the celebrity weight-loss stories, best-selling diet books, popular television shows like “The Biggest Loser" and endless articles about healthy eating might be convincing Americans to shed extra pounds.

However, last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the rate of obesity in adults is holding steady at 34 percent. That''s not good news. The rate is high, and more needs to be done to encourage weight loss.
For the last 25 years, America''s waistline has been expanding. Then in 2003, the obesity trend seems to have leveled off, according to a report "Obesity Among Adults in the United States, 2003 to 2004," which reflects the latest analysis from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

But the study had alarming information about minority communities. While some of the white population seems to be getting the message to keep the weight off, the obesity trend continues with Hispanics and blacks. About 53 percent of black women, and 51 percent of Hispanic women are considered obese, compared with 39 percent of white women. And that 39 percent is nothing to be proud of.

Since California is home to more than 13 million Hispanics, the study should be a wake-up call to health officials. Already, California is spending about $21.7 billion a year on medical costs related to obesity, representing about 8 percent of the state’s health care dollars, according to California Department of Health Services.

Fighting obesity is a battle that needs a mix of powerful weapons. There isn''t any one strategy that will work. That''s why proposals that require chain restaurants to post the calorie content on its menus and wallboards is not a solution to the obesity problem, but just one more way to inform people about what they are eating.

Santa Clara County supervisors are the first in the state to propose such a law after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill earlier this year.

The governor claimed the law would be costly, and had doubts it would encourage people to eat healthy. He is wrong. In an era when information is power, posting the nutritional content of our food can help people make healthier food choices.

While standing in line at McDonald''s and considering a Big Mac, one look at the menu showing it has 540 calories, 29 grams of fat and 1,040 milligrams of sodium, might change a person''s mind.

We know the public can learn. Take smoking, for example. We could learn a lesson from the anti-smoking campaigns that eventually reduced the rate of smoking in America. The tobacco industry fought every anti-smoking proposal for years. But the "no smoking" rules and anti-smoking publicity has curbed the killer habit, resulting in lower cancer rates.

While we favor the law requiring fast-food stores to post the calorie content, the problem we have is that it is not broad enough, since it only applies to chain restaurants.

Santa Clara County officials — and other counties — should do what''s in the best interest of public health, and require all restaurants to inform their customer about the nutritional, calorie and fat content of their food.