Philly's New Calorie Law: Does It Matter?

City to begin enforcing calorie count ordinance for restaurants

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    Burger anyone? Now you'll know how much it's going to cost you, calorie-wise.

    Starting Monday, the city of Philadelphia begins enforcing its new menu labeling law, requiring restaurants to post calorie counts of foods right on the menu.

    The ordinance, which was passed back in November 2008, requires restaurants and fast food joints with more than 15 locations to post calorie amounts as well as fat content, sodium levels and more on menu boards both inside and at drive-thrus.

    Day One of Calorie Counting

    [PHI] Day One of Calorie Counting
    Now you'll know how many calories you're consuming in Philly whenever you order up at a chain restaurant. Violators get fined. (Published Monday, Feb 1, 2010)

    But will seeing that Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese you're about to stuff down your gullet is 740 calories -- 380 of which is from fat -- really matter?

    Some people we talked to said the information is necessary to ensure healthy living.

    "It's a good idea to know what you're puttin' in your mouth, knowing what you're gonna eat," said Sarah Henry.

    Sophia Smith echoed those sentiments, and even invoked the city's past overweight reputation.

    "Philadelphia's one of the top fattest cities in the country, so we need to know what we're eating," she said.

    However, what seems to be lacking is personal responsibility. I mean, you kinda know what to expect in terms of how healthy or artery-clogging the food is sure to be for you by just walking into one of the eateries affected.

    Add to that, how easy it's been to access this information prior to the ordinance going into effect -- online nutrition guides, iPhone apps, even calorie boards inside the restaurants in question. They've been available from a majority of restaurants for years now, but many people haven't changed their eating habits.

    "I never really paid attention to that, I just eat the food," said Mitch Rozetar as he stood in front of a Wendy's in Center City.

    So, will it really matter? Will Philadelphians actually care about what's written on the menu?

    Maybe the law's more for the kids than adults. A 2008 health department study found 57-percent of Philadelphia's children are overweight or obese with numbers climbing to almost 70-percent in parts of North Philly. But who's going to keep the kids from buying the bad food?

    As for individual eateries, they're not included in the law.

    In a foodie town like Philly, wouldn't you love to know how that Wasabi Crusted Filet with mashed potatoes and black truffle soy from that oh-so-trendy spot will affect your waistline?

    Chains that fail to comply with the law will be fined $150 by the city health department. Restaurants also have until April 1 to display additional health information including saturated fat, carbohydrates and sodium levels.