Albany County considers calorie counting

Albany County legislators are scheduled Monday, Aug. 10, to discuss and vote on a law that would force chain restaurants in the county to post the amount of calories in each item on their menus.

Local Law B for 2009 would force all chain restaurants, or a restaurant with 15 or more locations, in the county to post calorie information on menus, menu boards and drive thru menus for consumers to see before ordering food.

The law was introduced by Tim Nichols, D-Latham, who said he got the idea for the law from other local laws that ask chains to post calorie counts on their menus.

In essence, the law is designed to present the public with accurate information about menu options, encouraging people to make healthier decisions when dining at a chain. Nichols said the law would be somewhat difficult to enforce for a non-chain restaurant, as portion sizes and menu options are constantly changing at a non-chain restaurant.

I think it would be impractical to apply this type of law to an independent small business, Nichols said. "Unlike the business model used by chain restaurants in which consistency counts, they cater to the individual and they cook to order. The portion sizes aren't always the same, and their menus aren't always the same."

Nichols said this law is not meant to deter people from eating fast food, rather show them the healthier side of chain restaurants. Having two children under the age of 12, Nichols said he understands that there are times when chain restaurants, drive thrus and other fast food is the only option, but he hopes that his law will help parents, like himself, make healthier choices while at these chain restaurants for themselves and for their kids.

The proposed law has the backing of several health organizations, including the American Heart Association.

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