Ten years ago this week, San Francisco required restaurants to list nutritional information on menus. Before the year was over, California became the first state to follow suit. The policy became national in December 2016.

One of the main reasons California has pushed for nutritional labeling is the rising rate of obesity, linked to many health problems.

National obesity rates

For 50 states and the District of Columbia

Obesity in U.S.Obesity in California

The portion of California’s population considered obese went from 9.9 percent in 1990 to 25 percent in 2016, leveling off since 2010.

Obesity rates over time

Here is a how obesity rates map out across all 58 California counties.

California countiesNew national standards

Studies show that about one-third of the food Americans eat is from restaurants. The trend that California began in requiring restaurant chains with 20 or more establishments to include caloric counts for food on menus will become a national policy in May. Many restaurants have already included the information.

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Where you will see calorie labeling:

  • Meals at sit-down restaurants
  • Foods purchased at drive-through windows
  • Takeout food, such as pizza
  • Foods, such as made-to-order sandwiches, ordered from a menu or menu board at a grocery store or delicatessen
  • Foods you serve yourself from a salad or hot food bar at a restaurant or grocery store
  • A muffin at a bakery or coffee shop
  • Popcorn purchased at a movie theater or amusement park
  • A scoop of ice cream, milkshake or sundae from an ice cream store

Foods in covered vending machines also will have to carry calorie labeling that can be viewed before purchase, subject to certain exceptions.

New labels

New nutrition labels may go into effect in July for businesses with more than $10 million in annual food sales. There is a proposed extension for the compliance date that the FDA has not ruled on.

New nutrition labelServing size changes
One of the biggest differences in the new label is more realistically reflecting modern serving sizes. A pint of ice cream might say four servings on the old label, but the new label will say three.

Portions on labelsPackaging
Packaging size affects how much people eat and drink. The new label will make both 12- and 20-ounce bottles one serving, since people typically drink the whole amount in one sitting.

You can see the USDA’s recommendations for daily caloric intake here.

Sources: National Institutes of Health, USDA, FDA, Trust for America’s Health, California Department of Public Health

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