EDITORIAL: Murkowski wins agreement on health facts for restaurant food

On the menu
When you look at the menu of a chain restaurant, along with the price you will soon see another number: calories. That's useful information, and it comes to us partly thanks to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
Murkowski introduced a bill last year to require restaurants nationwide to list calories and nutrients for their offerings. Given the obesity epidemic, she believes restaurant-goers need the information to make informed choices. Without a guide, it's impossible to tell if a meal equals a couple thousand calories, or a few hundred. Your calorie intake might be way over the top, or it may be modest enough to leave room for a light dessert.
Murkowski's bill died with the last Congress. But this week, she and two Democratic senators announced they and numerous public health organizations and representatives of the restaurant industry had reached an agreement that will require chains to list calories on their menus and menu boards.
The compromise covers restaurants that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations. Other nutritional information -- calories from fat, carbohydrates and protein, and more details -- must be available to consumers in writing upon request, under the provisions of the agreement.
Their new provisions will be part of the "prevention" section of health reform legislation that is to be debated in two Senate committees later this summer, Murkowski's office said.
Murkowski points out that Congress required packaged foods to be labeled with nutrition information nearly 20 years ago. With people living faster-paced lives, restaurant-prepared foods play a bigger role in what we as a society eat. Murkowski's proposal plugs a gap in information and is a step leading toward a leaner population.
BOTTOM LINE: You should know what you eat, even if you're eating out.