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L.A. County to consider menu labeling

LOS ANGELES The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider a proposal next week that would require an estimated 300 chain restaurants in unincorporated areas of the county to post nutrition information on menus and menu boards.

Proposed by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the requirement would apply to chains with 14 or more units in the state. The estimate of restaurants that would be covered range as high as 350 outlets.

The measure is on the agenda for an Aug. 12 meeting, during which the board will be asked to call for the development of a draft ordinance.

The proposal in its current form mandates that applicable restaurants post "nutritional and caloric information for all standard menu items," without specifying what data other than calorie content would have to be disclosed. Proposals elsewhere in the nation have required the disclosure of such information as fat, sodium and carbohydrate contents, in addition to calorie counts.

The Los Angeles measure is intended to reduce obesity rates within the county. The proposal notes that obesity rates among adults in the jurisdiction increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2005.

If approved, Los Angeles County would follow New York City, the Seattle area, and the Portland, Ore., area in requiring menu labeling. Elsewhere in California, similar measures have been approved in San Francisco and Santa Clara County, both of which have been challenged in court by the California Restaurant Association.

Two competing bills at the state level also would require menu labeling, including one backed by the CRA that would allow nutrition information to be provided via brochures or kiosks instead of solely through menus or menu boards. Legislation adopted at the state level would supersede any measure developed by the county.

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