Calif. laws aim at improving health, diet

SACRAMENTO, Calif. Starting July 1, California becomes the first state in the nation to require restaurants to post the number of calories contained in items on the menu. The law affects the 123 chains that have at least 20 restaurants in California. For now, the restaurants have the choice of listing the calories in the menus themselves, or offering customers brochures containing the information, along with the amounts of saturated fat, salt and carbohydrates. Starting in 2011, the calorie counts must be included on menus.

Another law going into effect Wednesday will bar schools from selling food made with artificial /*trans fats*/; that covers many items cooked with hydrogenated oils, margarine, or shortening. Previous legislation banned trans fats from cafeteria food; the new law extends that to include food sold in vending machines and by private, on-campus food service organizations such as fast food outlets. Furthermore, high schools will be prohibited from selling soda to students. Instead, the schools will only be allowed to sell fruit and vegetable drinks with no added sweeteners, bottled water with no sweeteners, low-fat and nonfat milk, non-dairy milks such as soy and rice milk and sports drinks with limited amounts of added sweetener. A similar ban is already in place at elementary and junior high schools.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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