Massachusetts approves calorie labeling measure

by Eric Schroeder
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BOSTON — The Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services (E.O.H.H.S.), which in January launched Mass in Motion, a multi-faceted effort designed to promote a broad range of wellness activities for Massachusetts residents, businesses and communities, on Wednesday said the Massachusetts Public Health Council has approved rules requiring major chain restaurants to provide calorie information for the food they sell.

The ruling, which is similar to laws passed recently in New York City and California, calls for food establishments with 20 or more locations in Massachusetts to provide calorie information at the point of purchase — either on the menu board or on the restaurant’s menu. The rule will take effect in November 2010 and will affect approximately 50 chain restaurant companies, representing more than 5,000 locations in Massachusetts, the E.O.H.H.S. said.

"This is a major step in the right direction in fighting the obesity epidemic in our state," said John Auerbach, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. "With more than half of our adult population and one-third of our middle and high school students either overweight or obese, we need to do more to address this problem. We know that providing this information will help our residents make more informed choices."

As part of Mass in Motion, the government will provide nearly $750,000 in grants to support local activities such as providing healthier meals in schools, expanding the availability of farmers’ market or supermarkets in low income neighborhoods. Last month, the council passed regulations allowing for Body Mass Index measurements for all school children in Massachusetts.

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