March 3, 2009

Md. bills seek menu data, ban trans fats

Legislation introduced in Maryland's General Assembly requires restaurants to ban trans fats and list calories of foods on the menu.

One bill, sponsored by state Sen. David Harrington, a Democrat, and Delegate Doyle Niemann, a Democrat, would require calorie counts on fast-food chains' menu boards and expanded nutrition information on chain restaurants' printed menus.

The menu labeling bill, HB 601, requires calories on menu boards used by fast-food chains and calories, saturated plus trans fat, carbohydrates, and sodium on printed menus at sit-down chain restaurants with at least 15 outlets.

Another bill, introduced by Delegate James Hubbard, a Democrat, would require all restaurants to phase out their use of partially hydrogenated oil -- artificial trans fat -- by October 2010. Baltimore and Montgomery County, Md., have already passed curbs on artificial trans fat.

Customers need calorie information at the point-of-ordering to make informed decisions, Michelle Forman, government affairs manager at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington said in a statement.

How else would one know that a plain bagel -- without cream cheese -- at Dunkin' Donuts has 120 more calories than a jelly-filled donut? Or that a large chocolate shake at McDonald's has more calories than three hamburgers?

Both bills are are supported by the non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest.