Posted by: Marvin Remmich | January 21, 2011

How many calories in that burger? Now the whole country will know

Liz Kniss was sitting in the crowded East Room of the White House, waiting to witness President Barack Obama sign the historic health reform bill. Suddenly, she saw something astonishing flash on a video screen: Among the various provisions of the new law was the requirement that chain restaurants list nutritional information on their menus.

This was news to Kniss, a champion of menu labeling as a Santa Clara County supervisor.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she recalled Tuesday, speaking of that memorable day — March 23, 2010. “To think that something we did in our county with eight restaurants has ended up affecting the entire United States? I said, ‘You gotta be kidding!’ ”

This week, California’s 2008 menu-labeling law takes effect. Restaurants with more than 20 outlets in the state must include calorie counts for items on menus. But with the federal law going in effect later this year, local enforcement has been put on hold. The state law will become a footnote in a grass-roots effort in which Kniss was an early advocate.

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