Schwarzenegger Vetos Menu Labeling Legislation

Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed California’s menu labeling legislation, claiming that the burden of having to post calorie info on menus was “unfair” and “inflexible.”

From brochures to tray liners, many restaurants are responding to consumer demand by providing nutritional information to their customers in a variety of ways. Further, more and more companies are making detailed information available online, allowing consumers to compare one restaurant’s healthy dining options to another. Inflexible mandates applied sporadically are not an effective way to continue our progress in educating Californians about healthy living. Restaurants throughout California have demonstrated that they are committed to working with me to promote this goal.

Say what you want about the merits of placing calorie info on menus; we find it really interesting that the restaurant lobby is this scared to post basic information that consumers seem to really want.

The CSPI points out that a poll conducted by the California Center For Public Health Advocacy found that 84% of Californians wanted calorie info on fast food menus. The poll also discovered that people were awful at estimating nutritional information:

The poll found that a large majority (84%) of Californians support requiring fast-food and chain restaurants to post nutritional information on menus and menu boards. Support for mandatory menu labeling was strong among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. The finding mirrors results of a 2004 Field Research Poll.

The poll also found that an overwhelming number of Californians are unable to identify from among typical fast-food and restaurant menu items those with the fewest calories, or the least salt, the most fat, or the most calories. Not a single respondent answered all four questions correctly. Less than 1 percent answered three of four questions correctly, only 5 percent answered two of the four questions correctly, and nearly 68 percent were unable to answer even one question correctly. Scores were equally poor regardless of education or income levels.

If you think you’re awesome at guessing nutritional info, take the quiz for yourself. We were terrible at it.

Californians Overwhelmingly Support Mandatory Menu Labeling [CCPHA]
Veto (PDF) [State of California]
Menu Labeling Veto a “Giant, Greasy Stain” on Schwarzenegger Health Record [CSPI]

PREVIOUSLY: California Assembly Passes Menu Labeling Legislation


Edit Your Comment

  1. hypnotik_jello says:

    Wow, terrible, 1 out of 4. And I consider myself pretty smart when it comes to what I eat. Blargh.

  2. PinkBox says:

    The quiz is pretty silly. Just about everything listed is obviously high calorie to begin with.

    Do you REALLY need Starbucks to post how many calories are in each drink to realize that everything they serve isn’t all that good for you?

    Same thing applies to other restaurants.

  3. HeyThereKiller says:

    I cant find it now, but there was a picture floating around the net of what a (Wendy’s?) menu would look like if they had to post all the nutritional information on the board.

    It was ridiculous looking and nearly impossible to read.

    I agree with the gubernator on this one.

  4. Anonymous says:

    i got one right. darn.

  5. 3drage says:

    2 out of 4, it would be nice to be able to get nutritional information without having a manager bring a hand-written note on specific items I’ve requested (happened at Applebees). Given the right design I think companies could be extremely effective with listing calories and fat next to their over sized advertisements. People need to be more aware of what they eat, and the would be surprised at things they think are healthy are actually bad for them. Anyone check sodium amounts at Taco Bell lately?

  6. Antediluvian says:

    Arnold’s really on a roll these days vetoing legislation that would help consumers. Vetoing the law allowing same-sex marriage would help those couples and save the state money (joint responsibility for debts and long-term care prevents people from using state benefits). Vetoing the (I think, sensible and useful) menu-labeling law too. Jerkwad. Well, at least he can’t run for president — my ex-governor is trying to inflict himself on that office. Beware of Romney.

  7. clickertrainer says:

    “Restaurant Confidential” is a pretty good source of info on this….read it a few years ago and learned a lot.

  8. Sam2k says:

    I only got the third question right.

    I don’t think it is a very good idea to require calorie info on menus. For one thing, it would be very expensive to update all the signage and promotional material. Additionally, calorie content alone is not all that one needs to consider in a meal.

    In my opinion, a better idea would be for restaurants to be required to publish a supplementary nutritional guide that contains FDA nutrional labels for all menu items.

  9. timmus says:

    Following the speech, Arnold Schwartzenegger went out to an evening of fine dining — on the house, of course.

  10. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    0/4 for me, and I’ve been watching my calories lately (I’ve found that if I write down everything I eat, “just a little bite” here and there begins to add up!)

    I’ve been trying to check out websites before I go to a place. But of course that’s not always practical. :-

  11. Miss Anthropy says:

    SAM2K is right. We need more than just caloric information to make informed decisions about what to eat, and there isn’t enough menu space to do that.

    What I’d really like to see is the calorie count for all food, as shown. That way, Subway can’t get away with their sneaky calorie count that is for meat and bread only (and doesn’t include any toppings). Like car ads, they’d have to give the base price/calories, but also disclose how much the “as shown” model is.

  12. HrPingui says:

    4/4, I am good!

    But anyway. I think that all restauraunts should be reuired to print said nutritional in the restaurant (by the counter, with the menu, etc.) and give handouts to customers that request them.

  13. anatak says:

    0 for 4

    eating out sucks

    If the restaurants are going to sneak all that crap into the food, then they should have to own up to it. Pertinent nutritional information should be on the menu since they took all the ‘feel good’ out of ordering a salad instead of the double-beef, triple cheese grease ball.

  14. hypnotik_jello says:

    @timmus: Big macs don’t cost too much.

  15. m0unds says:

    Most larger restaurants post their nutritional (haha) values on their websites. I think that’s sufficient for most. Having it on the menu would just be kind of..silly.

  16. Xerloq says:

    Wow. I took the quiz guessing against what I really thought the answers were (except the last one, that’s obvious). I got four out of four. I don’t think the restaurant necessarily needs to put the calories on the menu; rather, they should have them available on request.

    I agree that a reasonable person should know that eating-out is bad for you. It’s like someone smoking light cigarettes because they’ll kill you slower.

  17. naosuke says:

    2/4 for me. I agree with those saying no (forced) calorie information on the menus, but I do think that all of the FDA nutrition information should be freely available, mabey in a pamphlet. That being said uniform enforcment across the board could hurt smaller family owned restaraunts, who don’t necissarily have the exact caloric information of all of thier foods (or how many grams of carbs are in thier pizza dough, etc)

  18. valthun says:

    I think Arnold is correct on this one. I don’t want to read calorie info on every single menu item. If you want the info, the restaurants should have the information available upon request. But I don’t find that eating out every day for every meal is healthy in the first place, so why should I have to wade through all that crap to feel guilty about what I choose to eat? If I want to eat lard covered in grease I don’t want to know what the calorie count is. Good for the man for vetoing this retarded law. I think it is retarded in any state. Look what it did with NY, national chains have pulled their calorie info from their websites. So much for forward progress.

  19. hc5duke says:

    “Venti” is spelled wrong in that menu.

  20. Buran says:

    Wow, government is really out of touch. If 84% of people want something, don’t you think that it means that it’s a good idea to implement it? Failing to give people what they want is a dangerous idea for an ELECTED official.

  21. SOhp101 says:

    Good for Arnold. I think there should be laws stating that general nutrition info be available to customers (I’m talking to you, IHOP) but not written on the menu itself.

  22. Rider says:

    Wow people really have no clue what it takes to run a restaurant. Really I Have no clue how I would do this in my restaurant. Chefs and kitchen managers are not nutritionists, I hope there would be an exemption for small independent places. Really it’s hard enough doing pricing, I would have to figure out portion size then, figure out calorie count of each item, then add it all up. Tghis would take weeks if not months.

  23. 0/4
    I’m usually good at taking quizzes too.

    The answer to number three is stupid. Honestly, what are they putting in there?

  24. Xkeeper says:

    I would rather they have a law requiring all nutritional information be available to take or be posted somewhere very obvious and very able to read, e.g. keeping pamphlets by the registers/etc or having a large sign somewhere.

    Naturally, hiding this things to be “by request” wouldn’t be allowed.

  25. NTidd says:

    I think that this information should be available but doesn’t need to be printed on the menu. Let’s face it, if you are “dieting”, or just trying to eat healthy – you shouldn’t be at a restaurant, you’re doing it wrong.

  26. Trai_Dep says:

    It seems Republicans have a simple flowchart to help them decide policy questions. If more than 70% of the people polled are in favor of something (Iraq war, spying on innocent Americans require fast-pass warrant first, fast-food calorie menu reqs, poor kids having health insurance…), vote AGAINST it.

    If it wasn’t for the gays, the darkies or Janet Jackson, they’d have NOTHING to campaign on.

  27. Trai_Dep says:

    Arrgh. Did my comment get eaten?! ARGGH!

  28. Skiffer says:

    4/4 on the quiz…

    Of course, do I think about questions like those when I eat out? Hell no!

    Would I think about them if the info was right there on the menu? Hell yes!

  29. WhatThe... says:

    3 out of 4 – Applebees is the only restaurant that I’ve found that doesn’t have their nutritional info available either in the restaurant or online. I have a health condition and have to watch certain things – so I always figure out what I’m going to have before I eat out (with a a backup plan in case).

    @Rider: I agree that this would be hard to put together for a small restaurant. It’s easier for big chains because they supply all the food stuffs to each location. While local shops buy local and supply can change.

  30. hollerhither says:

    Nice broad generalization. If you travel for a living, you have no choice but to eat at restaurants and hotels — or at convention halls and airports, god forbid. And ever heard of a business lunch? Sometimes, they are mandatory.

    That said, agreed that a)there needs to be personal responsbility and b)that the nutritional information needs to be available, somehow. Although, I vote for availability on the premises, somehow/somewhere, for major chains (which *do* employ nutritionists).

  31. Shadowman615 says:

    I think the biggest problem is that such a mandate would pass the implementation cost on to the restaurant. If enough customers demanded it, and were willing to pay for it, restaurants would adopt such a program on their own.

  32. artki says:

    Although I’d like to see caloric info on a menu I’d hate for the govt. to FORCE it. Keep off my back!

  33. marsneedsrabbits says:

    Meh. I know that McDonald’s isn’t good for me, but I don’t need a mega-sized sign to tell me that. And the morons who eat there everyday or (worse) who feed their kids McDonald’s (substitute Wendy’s BK, whatever at will) everyday don’t either. And they won’t pay attention, so why bother?
    If I *want* the information, I agree that it should be available. But what is difficult about asking the counter help or the waiter?

  34. badlydrawnjeff says:

    @Buran: No. It means that 84% don’t quite know what’s right in many instances. Remember, a majority would love to put limits on the First Amendment, too.

  35. Sam2k says:

    @naosuke: I agree that it could hurt small restaurants, but I don’t think it an unreasonable requirement. There are two ways they could come up with the required info. They could sit down with a pencil and paper and add up the ingredients, or they could submit the food for testing.

    Either way, a restaurant that serves the public should not be excused from regulation simply because it doesn’t have the needed info on hand.

    Btw, I think that excessive regulation by the government is a bad thing as a general rule, but simply requiring food to be accompanied by information on its contents is not outside the scope of current governing bodies (ie FDA).

  36. Sam2k says:

    @Rider: I for one, would not trust a restaurant management team that doesn’t know and is unwilling to find out what goes into its food. The fact that it would take time to figure out is your problem. If your business is strong, it will survive.

  37. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    But what is difficult about asking the counter help or the waiter?

    Seriously? Asking the counter help? If I asked the counter worker at McDonald’s how many calories are in my burger and fries, the people in line behind me would shoot daggers at me with their eyes for holding up the line. The only thing that would be worse is if I rooted around in my purse for — gasp — a checkbook. ;-)

  38. rdm24 says:

    I feel that the customer has a right to know this information, and that the restaurant industry is obliged to make it easily available.

    However, I doubt it would affect the eating habits of most Californians.

    What would be awesome is if they gave you a total calorie count along with total price at the register! “That’ll be $5.99, 1200 calories, and 64 grams of fat”

  39. KingPsyz says:

    Honestly, why do we need to government to tell us what is and isn’t okay to eat? Do they really think just printing a laundry list of nutritional facts will help the average joe know what to eat?

    No, the lobbying effort on both sides of the manner should have poured those funds and resources into education. Start at the grade school level.

    Right now health and nutrition education is a joke because most school meal programs have FAST FOOD SPONSORS. For all the exploitation that was Fast Food Nation, I honestly think that like in some of the schools from the film the school ONLY offered healthy choices along with an excercise regiment would we see a change in lifestyles and health.

    If a parent wants their kids to eat fast food, fine, but it shouldn’t be at school. How can we call it an education if we don’t teach the kids how to live healthy?

  40. hollerhither says:

    @Consumerist Moderator – ACAMBRAS:
    Ugh, I hate those Visa check card ads! Using cash, or an old-fangled checkbook, is now “impolite?”

  41. Sam2k says:

    @KingPsyz: Schools don’t have time to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic currently. Why is it that parents are no longer responsible for teaching their kids how to live? If its not the government’s responsibility to educate about fast food, its not the school’s either.

  42. Fist-o™ says:

    Consumerist, I love you! But you know what? I live in INDIANA. What “The Governator” does is completely irrelevant to my consumerism. …Well, unless he establishes some precedent that Indiana would shortly follow (LOL!).

  43. KingPsyz says:

    No it’s not the School’s sole responsibility to teach kids how to eat. But it’s also not the schools job to teach them to eat junk either.

  44. nick_r says:

    I can’t completely go along with the outcry on this. It’s one thing if they refuse to give the information to people who ask for it; it’s another thing to insist that they present it upfront.

    On the other hand, it’s kind of a shitty argument on behalf of the restaurants that people won’t want to eat their food once they find out how bad it is for them. I don’t think anyone, including Arnie, believes that adding some new text to the menus is going to bankrupt the stores.

    But the bottom line is that people just need to stop eating all that goddamn fast food.

  45. zolielo says:

    I too am split on this one. Maybe forcing a restaurant (of a certain size) to have the information on hand if requested would be the best way.