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> Restaurant Nutrition Info, Many Restaurants Still Won't Post...
post Mar 23 2006, 10:27 PM
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Many Restaurants Still Won't Post Nutritional Information

Nutritionists say facts must be more readily available on menus and menu boards if campaigns to counter obesity and poor eating habits are to succeed.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
By Lance Gay - Scripps Howard News Service

After a decade of cajoling, pleading and pressuring, almost half of chain restaurants today are posting some form of nutrition information about the food they sell.

But nutritionists say many restaurants are too reticent about displaying that information publicly. It must be more readily available on menus and menu boards if campaigns to counter obesity and poor eating habits are to succeed, they said.

In a survey published in the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, nutritionist Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and researcher Melissa Osburn said that 45 percent of the largest chain restaurants surveyed were posting nutrition information, and most of that was found only on company Web sites.

Wootan said that was a 50 percent increase over a 1994 survey. The increase in postings came after government officials - including Surgeon General Richard Carmona - urged restaurants to more fully disclose nutrition information to help in the U.S. campaign against obesity. The industry expects Americans will spend more than $511 billion in restaurants this year.

"It's moving in the right direction, but too often the information is hard to find, and hard to use," Wootan said. She said it would be more effective if people got the nutrition information at the point of sale rather than having to search for it on the Internet.

Wootan said she backs new laws that would require large chains to post the information. McDonald's, the hamburger chain, this year plans to print nutrition information on its food wrappers, but Wootan said she would prefer that the information be made available before purchases.

Whether chains posted nutrition information varied widely according to the food they served. About 87 percent of hamburger chains post such information, compared to 73 percent of pizza chains, but only 31 percent of family-dining chains and 20 percent of dinner houses. Seafood-restaurant chains ranked the lowest, with 8 percent reporting the information.

The industry is opposed to legislation to require greater compliance, arguing that restaurants change menus and recipes so often during the year that they would have a difficult time keeping information up to date.

"There's a very large misunderstanding of the restaurant industry," said Sheila Cohn, director of nutrition for the National Restaurant Association. "A lot of them make changes on a daily basis, and a few change menus daily."

Seafood restaurants, she said, often serve their food on the basis of the day's catch brought in, and so their menus are the most irregular.

"A one-size-fits-all approach is just not feasible," she said. "It won't work."

Cohn said the industry is responding to consumer demand for more information and tries to present it to consumers in a readable and understandable fashion while keeping costs down. Cohn said the costs would be "astronomical" to reprint menus when new items are added or sauces changed.

The Ruby Tuesday chain tried printing such information on its menus in 2004, but gave up after five months because its recipes and portion sizes were adjusted so many times, and it was too costly to reprint menus to keep up. The chain chose instead to print the information on tabletop cards.

Copyright Scripps Howard News Service 2006

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post Mar 25 2006, 12:21 AM
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Good post, thanks for sharing it.
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