Some Erie County Restaurants to List Calories

November 8, 2010 Updated Nov 8, 2010 at 6:35 PM EDT

By Laura Gray

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November 8, 2010 Updated Nov 8, 2010 at 6:35 PM EDT

Blasdell, NY (WKBW) -- 200 Erie County restaurants are expected to join a pilot program to list nutritional content on their menus. The Erie County Health Department and the Western New York chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association are working together to give customers more information before they order. What's unique about this program is that unlike what's being done in New York City right now, this program is completely voluntary and free.
Some health conscious customers want to know how many calories are in their meal."Our servers get questions like what do you recommend or what's a healthy option." says Robert Free, President of WNY chapter of the NYSRA.
They'll soon find out that information along with the fat content and sodium content. All of that information will appear right on the menu as a part of a nutrition facts label under the new "Healthy Choices" program. "This is about knowing what you're eating." says Free.
Here's how it works. Each restaurant participating in the Healthy Choices program enters all of the ingredients on up to four menu items into a new software program on Erie County's website. Restaurant owners print out the nutritional content and list it on the menu for their customers. The program is a voluntary collaboration between the private sector and Erie County. "if it was a law, it would put the independent guy in a real problem place." according to Dennis DiPaolo, owner of Ilio DiPaolo's in Blasdell.
Healthy Choices is free to restaurant owners. It's paid for through a 25-thousand dollar state grant. "The Health Department has so many promotional materials, stickers, inserts in menu, table tents. So you don't have to reprint menus, because it's very costly." Free tells us.
Because it's voluntary, the program is dependent on the restaurant owner's accounts of what ingredients and how much of each ingredient is in the menu item. Supporters say the goal of the program is consumer education.
Up to 200 restaurants can participate. Sign up is on a first come, first serve basis. Eriecounty.gov will list the names and locations of the restaurants as they sign up on their website. We'll have a link to it as well on our website under newslinks.