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Still, Wootan says the guidelines are a positive step.
"You won't have to get out of line and go back to some poster by the bathroom and look at some item in a tiny font size," she says. "It will be right there on the menu where you are getting your other information about what to order."
The idea is to make sure that customers process the calorie information as they are figuring out what to eat. Many restaurants currently post nutritional information in a hallway, on a hamburger wrapper or on their website. The new law will make calories immediately available for most items.
Menus and menu boards will also tell diners that a 2,000-calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice, noting that individual calorie needs may vary.
The labeling requirements were added to the health bill with the support of the restaurant industry, which is facing a smattering of laws from cities and states. New York City was the first in the country to put a calorie posting law in place. Since then, California, Seattle and other places have done so.
Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, said the calorie postings will provide customers with consistent information.
"The new standard," she said, "will help chain restaurants provide the same type of nutrition information to consumers in any part of the country."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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