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Menu-Labeling Law Takes Effect

February 6, 2010

American eating habits have changed.  We’re now eating healthier and cheaper.  The latter is the effect of the economy; the former is caused by a general awareness that a lot of us are either overweight or generally unhealthy.

So it’s within this climate that Philadelphia’s new nutrition menu-labeling law came into effect this past week.  Simply put, chain or franchise restaurants with over 15 locations anywhere are required, for their Philadelphia locations, to post calorie contents on menu boards.  The menu board also needs to indicate that additional nutrition information is available upon request.   When it was passed, the law was considered the most stringent in the nation.

A possible violator of menu-labeling law?

Of course, being in Philadelphia, there’s always a question whether certain laws limited to the city, such as the smoking ban in bars or using handheld devices while driving, are both followed and enforced.  It would make sense that this law  should either apply on a wider basis (for the entire state, for instance) or not at all.

So, out of curiosity, I ventured out on the first Friday that the law was in force to a sampling of chain restaurants in Center City.   Here’s what I found regarding following the law and notable calorie listings of items:

  • Au Bon Pain – Liberty Place – Brand new printed menu board with calorie listings, very easy to read.  Its Prosciutto signature sandwich came in at a relatively hefty 810 calories, but the menu in general is healthy.
  • Subway – Liberty Place – While the Subway chain as a whole has been very health-conscious, the menu board here was not very helpful.  It gives some calorie information for 6 inch sizes, but really just provides a range of calories for their items.  Not sure if this is entirely compliant.  One notable item was the 1,190 calorie footlong premium pastrami sandwich.  Might as well eat a cheesesteak with loaded fries at this point.
  • Bain’s Deli – Liberty Place – Nothing visible at all.  No board with calories, no listing of additional nutrition information.  I’m an ex-employee of a Bain’s Deli in another state, so I’m pretty sure there are more than 15 locations.  Disappointed at the apparent lack of compliance.
  • Chick-Fil-A – Liberty Place – New food calorie labels on menu board.  It lists 430 calories  for the signature Chick-Fil-A sandwich.  Doesn’t say anything though about the delicious waffle fries that come with the meals.
  • Saladworks – Liberty Place – New menu board, listing all the relatively healthy food options.  The fire roasted cabo chicken comes in at 368 calories.  That’s a pretty healthy and tasty meal.  Funny enough, not too many people in line here.
  • Taco Bell – Suburban Station – Taco Bell is as unhealthy as you can get, but it’s done a good job at providing health-conscious options.  Last year, it started off its Fresco menu (read: no cheese or sour cream).  Basically, you order the same basic choices but about 150 or so less calories.  Even so, the new menu board labels enlighten you to the 550 calories in each 5 layer burrito.  They’re so good though, so I think it’s worth it.
  • McDonald’s – Suburban Station – I’ve always found it funny that McDonald’s, as a major sponsor of the Olympics, has been the official food vendor in the Olympic Village at several Games.  I’m sure chicken nuggets are just what world class athletes need.   The menu board is good, with calorie labels on the sandwiches, alerting you to the 540 calories for a Big Mac.
  • Pizza Hut – Suburban Station – Menu board in place.  Meat lover’s personal pan pizza at 850 calories.  Yummy.
  • Wendy’s – 15th and Chestnut – This menu board provides a range for calorie contents (perhaps to account for asking for certain things on your sandwiches).  The half pound double with cheese combo checks in at 1270 calories.
  • Five Guys – 15th and Chestnut – My guess is that straight burger places like Five Guys will take a big hit.  The new menu board label highlights the 840 calories for the cheeseburger.  That’s not even taking into account the delicious fries yet.  Sheesh.
  • Church’s Chicken – Suburban Station – Nothing.  I went to two different locations in Suburban Station to be sure, and nothing.  There are 15 Church’s Chickens in Philly alone, so the law applies to it.

So there you have it.  Most places are in compliance, and there are some stragglers.  We’ll see if people’s eating habits change.  Myself, on Friday, I decided to get a gyro from a street vendor.  Ignorance of calorie content is bliss.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2010 7:41 pm

    Nice! I haven’t been to this site (philawdelphia.wordpress.com) in some time — boy, have I been missing a lot of interesting posts!

  2. Joe permalink
    March 3, 2010 4:52 pm

    Nice reportage. I know I appreciated seeing the calorie counts at the chains I have been to recently.

  3. lemonhalf permalink
    April 18, 2011 10:27 pm

    went to the bain’s on Broad and South – no calories there either!! what gives!?

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