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Can Menu Labeling Prevent Disease?

Will calorie content on menus prevent disease? Apparently, New York City thinks so. Beginning next month, New York City will require certain restaurants to post calories on their menus so people can see how many calories they are ordering up.

New York hopes this rule will help consumers make better choices at restaurants. If you see that an appetizer is 1,200 calories, you may think twice, skip the appetizer and just go with the main meal. Well New York City may be happy about this but the restaurant owners may not.

As of March 31, 2008, the New York Board of Health and Mental Hygiene will adopt an amendment of to article 81 of the New York City Health Code. This means that restaurants that have 15 or more locations will be required to post calories on their menus. The postings must be in plain sight to the consumer; they won’t be allowed to be part of that microscopic disclaimer section you see at the bottom of so many products. New York City hopes that by posting calories, especially if they are next to prices, will decrease the obesity crisis and lead New Yorkers to a healthier life. New York feels that it is a public health priority to take care of its citizens by using prevention instead of reaction for good health. Since 7 out of the 10 major causes of death is the United States are related to obesity, an outcome of high calorie intake, this idea of putting calories on menus is non-negotiable to anyone that cares about the obesity crisis. More people in the world now are overweight than malnourished, a scary fact when you realize that most of the time it can be prevented.

“Excess calories act as cancer triggers,” according to Dr. David Kritchevsky of the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. The results of some animal experiments showed that calories may count more then fat and that eating fewer calories may help increase the ability of DNA molecules to repair them so they don’t develop into cancer. Dr. Clifford Welsch, a breast cancer researcher from Michigan State University advises people that decrease cancer risk, controlling calories is the way to go. But will putting the calories on the menus lead to calorie abatements? Well it can’t hurt. Past research has shown that less educated people make worse choices concerning eating healthy so this form of education has the potential to help a lot of people. Dr. Friedan, the city’s health commissioner, considers the new rule a potent weapon in the crusade against obesity. We all must take charge, not just restaurants, but schools, homes and food companies too.

Since the rule only applies only to restaurants that have 15 or more locations, fast food chains will be included. Since they are notorious for high calorie food and beverages, they may be tempted to stop super sizing and start to think about the effect their food has on public health. It is estimated that New Yorkers eat one third of their meals outside of home so this rule can have an impact.

Putting calories on menus is not a substitution for formal nutrition education but it is a start. It may peak interest in some people to find out just what the word “calorie,” means. It may make someone make a better choice of ordering water instead of a 150 calorie can of coke. Whatever impact the new law has on New Yorkers will take time to find out, but in the meantime, a few less calories can’t hurt.


Reference Source 167
February 12, 2008


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