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PHILADELPHIA -- The city known for cheesesteaks will soon start dispensing nutrition labels with restaurant menus, as Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter will soon sign a bill ordering most chain restaurants to display calorie, fat and other nutritional information at the time of purchase, according to a report by the Associated Press.
The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2010, and follows similar legislation in New York City, California and elsewhere. The Philadelphia ordinance applies to restaurant chains -- including coffee shops, ice cream parlors and convenience stores -- with 15 or more stores. It will require eating establishments to inform their customers about calories, saturated fat, trans-fat, carbohydrates and sodium.
The Philadelphia law is the strongest of the nine passed around the country to date, according to Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. In New York, the only one already in effect, surveys show many people are changing their buying habits. "This is one of the few places in people's diets where in a split-second decision they can save hundreds, even thousands, of calories," Wootan said.
Authorities at Wawa Inc., a regional convenience store chain with about 40 locations in Philadelphia, said the company will post the nutritional information on in-store menus, and perhaps even on the touchscreens customers use to place their orders.
"The advantage of getting it on the screen is people could add up all those (sandwich) components," spokeswoman Lori Bruce said. Customers could then compare the fat or calories in sandwiches of different sizes and those with and without cheese and other extras. Customers can already do so on the company's Web site, she noted.