Menu Labeling

I recently read this article from the LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-calorie-rules-20110706,0,3599853.story

Basically, the restaurant association is asking FDA for more flexibility and lenience when they (restaurants) post calorie counts.  (The healthcare overhaul added a requirement for all dining locations with at least 20 sites in a state to post calorie information for their menu).

What are your thoughts?  Things get pretty complicated when dealing with many different options.  What do you think is the clearest, easiest-to-understand method for posting calorie counts?  Are averages best?  Or ranges?

And what about serving sizes?  What do you think pizza places should post: calories for a whole pizza or a slice?

Finally, what do you think about the concept of menu labeling in general?  Is it a good move for public health?

Personally, the last time I was at Chipotle, I noticed that the veggie option had a range of at least 500+ calories posted.  I guess if one just orders veggies, the food is at 130 calories, but if one orders all of the additions (rice, beans, salsas, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tortilla), it can go over 600 calories (thought it was more, but that’s what the picture above depicts).  I can’t remember the exact numbers, but I was surprised by the huge range.  I didn’t think the posting was particularly helpful for the average consumer, especially one who isn’t familiar with how many calories are in different foods.

I’m also a bit nervous that places, particularly quick-service places, may post the very lowest calorie count — such as counting just the bun of a hamburger, for example — and then showing a huge range of calories, when in actuality, the usual hamburger (without substitutions) may be at the high end of the spectrum posted.

Anyway, enough from me.  What do you think?

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