Pot Luck

Blissful Fast Food Ignorance

We're not sure if we're ready to see how many calories or fat our fast food indulgences have. We know they're bad for us -- we're not dumb. But maybe it's not knowing how bad that keeps us making those late-night runs to Whataburger.

We may not be able to live in blissful ignorance much longer. The McDonald's in Texas Children's Hospital has recently added calorie, fat, and carbohydrate counts to its menu boards. Now when you order your super-cheap Big Mac, you won't be able to ignore the fact that you're consuming a 540-calorie burger. The hospital first suggested adding the nutritional facts to the menu boards back in 2006. Although McDonald's was not required to do this by law, it reached an agreement with the hospital to do so voluntarily. Thank goodness they have no plans to add nutritional information to the menu boards of their other stores.

We won't be so lucky at other fast food stores. By 2011, Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell and KFC, will have calorie information on its menu boards. And Burger King and Wendy's already have posters with nutritional information.

Why this new trend? It's all in the name of fighting the growing obesity problem in the United States. Michelle Obama recently launched a campaign to fight childhood obesity. California has already passed laws requiring nutritional information on menus and menu boards for restaurants with more than 20 locations. And New York City has required it for restaurants with 15 or more locations since 2008. Texas tried and failed in 2009 to pass similar legislation and will probably try again in 2011.

It's all for a good cause, but will it help fight the problem? The verdict is still out.

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Jane Catherine Collins