The results of formal studies on the effect of menu labeling are mixed, mainly because the research is just beginning, said Kelly D. Brownell, public health director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
One study found that the number of calories purchased per customer decreased at nine of 13 fast-food or coffee chains once New York menu labeling laws went into effect. Another that looked only at consumers in low-income and minority neighborhoods in the city found that it had little effect on their purchases.
"I suspect that the science is going to be mixed in the beginning but that we will figure out" how to provide nutritional information that affects public health, Brownell said.
But providing the data is a "right-to-know" issue, regardless of what people do with the information, he said. "It is no different than knowing what materials your clothes are made of or the nutritional content and ingredients of packaged food."
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Here is a sampling of the kinds of nutritional information that California Pizza Kitchen is providing customers in booklets on restaurant tables.
Tuscan white bean minestrone. Cup. 140 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, 1 gram of saturated fat, 353 milligrams of sodium and 21 grams of total carbohydrates.
Original BBQ chicken chopped salad. Full salad: 1,133 calories, 13 grams of fiber, 46 grams of protein, 16 grams of saturated fat, 1,460 milligrams of sodium and 95 grams of total carbohydrates.
Mushroom pepperoni sausage pizza. 10-inch-diameter pizza: 1,426 calories, 8 grams of fiber, 67 grams of protein, 31 grams of saturated fat, 3,336 milligrams of sodium and 127 grams of total carbohydrates.
Tomato basil spaghettini with grilled chicken breast. Entree: 1,496 calories, 12 grams of fiber, 64 grams of protein, 15 grams of saturated fat, 2,428 milligrams of sodium and 143 grams of total carbohydrates.
* White chocolate strawberry cheesecake. Slice: 1,101 calories, 0 grams of fiber, 13 grams of protein, 47 grams of saturated fat, 600 milligrams of sodium and 96 grams of total carbohydrates.
Source: California Pizza Kitchen