Food calorie labeling law going nationwide

FRESNO, Calif.

Some of the lunchtime crowd at River Park in North Fresno didn't order until they scanned the calorie count.

Tina Stratford's visiting from Atlanta. The menu at Mimi's Cafe lists calories, but that didn't eliminate any choices.

"It didn't really get to that point but versus a 1200 calorie breakfast versus something half of that which would be just as good, we went for the 600," she said.

State law requires restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on their menus and boards.

"The changes that we do in our restaurant are driven by what our guests want. They've wanted to know what's in the hamburger, what's in the milkshake," McDonalds restaurant owner Scott Rodrick said.

But menu labeling became federal law when President Obama signed the healthcare reform bill.

Registered dietitian Kim Tirapelle is glad to see the law extend beyond California.

"This is something that has been a good change and I'm not surprised the federal government is trying now to enforce it across the board because of the fact that across the United States obesity is rising at a dramatic rate," Tirapelle said.

Businesses may worry about the added cost of making the calorie count available, but consumers say some restaurants make it easier for them to make healthier choices.

"Especially at Cheesecake Factory they have really good skinnylicious menu. I was there yesterday so I was looking at the menu and calories, everything," Valley visitor Maggie Chiu said.

Tirapelle says the calorie count arms consumers with knowledge.

Even salads aren't so healthy when you add on meat, chips and sour cream.

"Those really pile on the calories and the fat and also the salt," she said.

Specific rules have yet to be adopted, but the federal menu labeling law supercedes state law.

Despite the confusion, many restaurants never removed calorie counts from their menus and boards.

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