Inter-Departmental Correspondence

Board Supervisors



July 31, 2008


August 12, 2008







Honorable Board of Supervisors


Supervisor Jerry Hill and Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson

Housing, Health, and Human Services Committee of the Board


Requiring chain foodservice establishments to post nutrition information.



Adopt An Ordinance Adding Chapter 4.58 to Title 4 of the San Mateo County Ordinance Code Requiring Chain Foodservice Establishments to Post Nutrition Information.



Commitment: Ensuring basic health and safety for all.

Goal(s): Goals: 7 – maintaining and enhancing the public safety of all residents and visitors; 8 – helping vulnerable people achieve a better quality of life.



In California, epidemics involving obesity and chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension, are among the greatest challenges facing public health. Hypertension and diabetes alone account for the majority of primary care clinic visits in California. Obesity rates have tripled in children and in teenagers over the past twenty years, making California’s rate of increase among the fastest in the country. In California, one third of our children, one fourth of our teenagers, and one half of our adults are either overweight or obese. The County’s Health Officer has recently reported that there is increasing evidence of obesity and other related health concerns in San Mateo County.


The rise in obesity rates has coincided with an increase in the number of meals Americans eat outside the home. Consumers consistently underestimate the nutritional content of meals purchased at restaurants. When provided with nutritional information, consumers are better able to make informed decisions regarding the meal they are purchasing for themselves and their family. Requiring certain foodservice establishments in the unincorporated areas of the County to provide such information will permit consumers of those establishments to make healthier choices.



The proposed ordinance would require foodservice establishments in the unincorporated area with at least fifteen total outlets in California to post nutritional information, including the total number of calories, sodium and fat content of menu items on printed menus. Menu boards would only need to include the total number of calories of the menu item. The proposed ordinance is drafted to permit the Environmental Health Division to enforce compliance with the ordinance under the same state-law based enforcement mechanism used to enforce other violations (i.e., through warnings and eventual suspension of the restaurant permit if the violation is not remedied).


The ordinance would apply to approximately 30 restaurants and an additional number of grocery and convenience stores that offer food for consumption on-site. There are upwards of 450 establishments in the entire county that would fall under proposed ordinance’s definition of chain foodservice establishment, if all the cities in the County adopted the ordinance.


The proposed ordinance is essentially modeled after ordinances recently adopted by San Francisco and Santa Clara counties. The California Restaurant Association has brought a legal challenge to both these ordinances, contending that such regulation is pre-empted by state and federal law. A related regulation in New York City has survived a similar legal challenge. A California state law requiring similar disclosure was vetoed last year by the Governor, and two proposals on the same subject are again being considered by the Legislature.



Given that this ordinance would be enforced by the Environmental Health Division in conjunction with already-existing enforcement of permits, there is no anticipated fiscal impact on the County.