An independent survey released today reveals whether nutritional information is helping Montgomery County consumers.

The survey by the University of Maryland Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program shows that Montgomery County’s effort to make nutritional information available on menus at larger chain restaurants is having a significant impact on the food choices of diners who read the information before ordering.

Montgomery County was one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to pass a bill requiring establishments with at least 20 national locations and the same menu at each location, to post nutritional information. The bill went into effect on July 1, 2010.

These establishments were required to provide calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total and complex carbohydrates, cholesterol, sugar, fiber and protein for any standardized menu item in writing on request. In addition, facilities with self-service food, such as salad bars and buffet lines, were required to post calorie information for a standard serving size next to the item.

The results of the survey showed that 32 percent of customers surveyed read the nutrition information. Of those, 39 of the 41 people reported that the nutritional information influenced their choices, with 67 percent stating they only used calorie information. Others reported using fat or sodium content to make their selections.

The survey also revealed demographic trends, with women being more likely than men to use the nutritional information. Most shockingly, not one person surveyed between the ages of 18-24 said they read the information prior to ordering.