The Italian Almanac

dinner table


A town in the southern province of Salerno has become the first in Italy and Europe to demand that restaurants indicate the calories of the foods they serve. The initiative by Ascea Mayor Mario Rizzo, a physician, followed an example set by New York City several months ago. The New York ordinance, however, was later struck down by a federal court even though some leading fast-food chains had modified their menus to abide by the rule.

The initiative in Ascea is in line with a provincial effort to promote healthy nutrition and encourage the consumption of local extra virgin olive oil, fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, all staples in the Mediterranean diet. The order issued in Ascea was defined by the mayor as a ''precautionary measure'' to combat obesity. ''My intention is aimed at reaffirming the right to good health as well as to promote the local economy,'' Rizzo explained. ''Obesity is a growing problem even here in the region of Campania, where we grow the best foods for the Mediterranean diet. Statistics show that Campania is the Italian region with the highest percentage of obesity among children,'' the mayor added.

The town ordinance also highlighted statistics from the European Union which showed that diseases linked with obesity were responsible for 7% of total health care costs in the EU. These diseases included diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer. If current trends continue, Rizzo warned, ''Italy can expect an obesity rate among its children of 12.5% by 2025,'' a 205% jump from today.

The provincial department chief for fishing, Carmine Cennamo, praised the action take in Ascea and expressed his hope that seafood restaurants elsewhere would adopt the initiative on their own.