A new report released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the F.D.A., says restaurants should be doing more to help Americans fight what has been described as a national obesity epidemic. Although the government cannot regulate what the restaurants serve, the report has several suggestions the F.D.A. thinks restaurants should follow.
The federal government says 64 percent of Americans are overweight and 30 percent are obese. That has prompted the Food and Drug Administration, the F.D.A., to issue a report urging restaurants to help control obesity.
The report claims that Americans get one-third of their daily calories outside the home. F.D.A. Acting Commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach said, "Foods away from home are an important part of our dietary intake, and we need to begin to think how we're going to manage that effectively."
The F.D.A. suggests several ways. At the top of the list is reducing portion size. The report also says restaurants should offer more low-calorie options on their menus.
Some fast-food chains now feature a variety of salads and other more healthful food choices, which consumers can substitute for French fries and soft drinks. The F.D.A. also calls on restaurants to promote these lower-calorie foods.
Perhaps most controversially, the F.D.A. is asking restaurants to provide calorie information. Steven Anderson, president of the National Restaurant Association, says that is an expensive and unrealistic task. "If you go into a sandwich place and you order a sandwich, and you have 15 different choices to put between two slices of bread, you have 1.3 trillion possible combinations that you'd have to nutritionally label,” he said. “I think that shows how impractical that recommendation is.”
The restaurant industry says both consumers and restaurants have a responsibility for healthful eating.
"At the end of the day, this is all about personal responsibility that we all have to take for our own diet and our own health,” Anderson said. “I think restaurants do a good job and I think have an obligation to provide choices to people, and we've been doing that in greater and greater numbers."
The report said the work needed to calculate the calorie content for one item could cost $100. An entire menu could cost up to $46,000.