California is the first in the nation to implement a state-wide nutrition disclosure requirement for its chain restaurants.


The law’s first phase, enacted July 1, requires restaurants with more than 20 locations to disclose calorie, saturated fat, carbohydrate and sodium content either inside the menu or at the table through a brochure or table tent. The second phase is for nutrition information to be incorporated onto menus by 2011.


The law, meant to help curb consumers’ eating decisions toward healthier choices, is not the first of its kind. New York City enacted a menu label law in 2008 to improve health and lower obesity rates, but overwhelming success of that program is yet to be seen. Seattle and Portland, Ore., have similar requirements, and several other cities are or have considered a regulation.


California’s law comes in the wake of federal legislation that would also require nutrition information on menus. The Menu Education and Labeling (MEAL) and Labeling Education and Nutrition (LEAN) acts are being discussed in Congress.


In a statement he made in September after he signed the bill for this law, Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor, said that obesity cost the state $28.6 billion in health care, lost productivity and compensation for workers.