Living Large in Boston

January 26th, 2009 | Sources: Boston Globe


If Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has his way, the state’s major restaurant chains will soon be required to post calorie counts for all offerings, either on the menu or at the counter.

And public schools will have to measure the height and weight of all children in grades 1, 4, 7 and 10, determine which students are overweight using a BMI calculation, and report the results to parents or guardians.

Patrick’s anti-obesity proposals must first be approved by the Public Health Council and that is expected to happen shortly.

“Our approach here is comprehensive – like with smoking cessation and HIV-prevention, a single message is not enough,” state public health commissioner John Auerbach told the Boston Globe.

Massachusetts is one of the nation’s most health conscious states but even here the percentage of overweight or obese adults increased from 43% to 59% between 1990 and 2007. Meanwhile, a third of the state’s middle school and high school students are overweight, 3 times more than 20 years ago.

Massachusetts officials estimate that about 2,000 restaurants would be subject to the new rules, which apply only to chains having 15 or more stores in the state.

Massachusetts-based Dunkin’ Donuts said it embraced a “responsibility to provide health-related public information,” but whined that “for multistate operators…the complex, localized regulatory approach to menu labeling is costly and disruptive.”

New York City has required that fast-food chains post calorie counts on menu boards since April and the information surprised even Gotham’s health commissioner. 

“It was sticker shock,” Thomas Frieden told the Globe. “Who knew a bran muffin could have 450 calories?”


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