CHICAGO (Reuters) - The American Medical Association said on Wednesday it wants fast-food and chain restaurants to add nutritional information to menus and menu boards as part of an effort to combat obesity in the United States.
The influential physicians’ group said the information should be easy to understand and include calorie, fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium content.
“One of the key things to address in the obesity epidemic is that people know what they’re eating,” AMA President Dr. Ronald Davis told reporters at a news briefing.
“We would like voluntary action now, but we will also be calling for policies ... at the local, state and national levels to require chains to do this,” Davis said.
He noted the privately held Subway fast-food chain already lists grams of fat on its menu board.
“We would like to see other restaurant chains doing that voluntarily. We also would like to see other detailed information on their menus, where there is more room — information like calories, grams of fat, grams of sodium and so on,” Davis said.
Davis said Baja Fresh Mexican Grill, a Thousand Oaks, California restaurant chain, already includes such information in their menus.
“This resolution says that on the menu boards, where space is limited, at least you could put calories in addition to price,” he said.
Many restaurant chains offer nutritional information on their Web sites, but have opposed efforts to add such detail to their menus.
In December, New York City’s board of health ordered restaurants to standardize how they display the number of calories in dishes on their menus in an effort to combat obesity.
That law would apply to restaurants that already report calorie counts and require them to display the numbers on menus and menu boards. It could affect about 10 percent of New York City’s restaurants.
It has been opposed by the restaurant industry, which complained that both the trans fat and calorie reporting measures could translate into price increases for consumers.
Wendy’s International Inc., the No. 3 U.S. hamburger chain behind McDonald’s and Burger King, already lists nutritional information on posters in its restaurants and on its web site, but opposes the AMA’s call to add such information to menu boards.
“We don’t think that is practical. We believe in providing complete nutrition information rather than partial information,” said Wendy’s spokesman Bob Bertini.
Burger King spokesman Keva Silversmith said the burger chain already puts the information the AMA is asking for on posters in each restaurant.
“The problem with putting all of that up on a menu (board) is that it would become very difficult for a consumer to read and interpret it,” he said.
McDonald’s Corp., the largest hamburger chain in the world, puts nutritional information such as calories on some packaging and posts the information online.
Additional reporting by Jessica Wohl and Brad Dorfman in Chicago