Amended labeling bill advances in Calif.

SACRAMENTO Calif. California moved a step closer to requiring nutrition disclosure by some chain restaurants when the state Assembly passed a bill that includes a number of provisions favored by the California Restaurant Association.

The measure moved to the state Senate, which is expected to approve the bill before the end of the week. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not indicated whether he would sign the measure into law.

The Republican governor vetoed a menu-labeling bill last year, calling it impractical.

The initiative currently under consideration, SB 1420, was amended last Friday to address a number of objections that had been raised by the CRA. The revised legislation would apply to units of chains with at least 20 branches within California, instead of the prior threshold of 15 stores statewide.

It also provides two means for applicable restaurants to comply between July 2009 and January 2011. The outlets could either post calorie counts on their menus or menu boards, or provide more extensive nutrition information via brochures upon request by customers. As of 2011, all places would be required to display the calorie information on menus and menu boards.

The legislation also would pre-empt municipal or county mandates. The CRA had expressed concerns that chain operators would have to comply with a hodgepodge of labeling requirements that could vary from one town to the next.

The bill also includes language that would discourage lawsuits from being filed because the stated nutrition information differed from the actual data because of variations in serving sizes or customization. “The only enforcement mechanism,” the bill states, “is the local enforcement agency.”

The bill specifies that fines for infractions would range from $50 to $500.

The Assembly approved the legislation Wednesday in a 46-27 vote.