Federal judge upholds N.Y.C. calorie count rule

by Eric Schroeder
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NEW YORK — Judge Richard J. Holwell of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on April 16 upheld a New York City health code provision requiring certain restaurants to post calorie information on menus and menu boards. The law, which takes effect April 21, applies to restaurants with more than 15 outlets across the United States.

In issuing his decision in a 27-page court document, Mr. Holwell turned back a challenge from the New York State Restaurant Association, which filed the lawsuit arguing that dictating how restaurants post calorie information is a violation of free speech.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), meanwhile, in late January passed a vote that would require the restaurant chains to display the calorie count. The regulation originally was set to take effect March 31 but was delayed due to the lawsuit.

"Today’s decision is a victory that will give New Yorkers the calorie information they need — where they need it — to make informed, healthier choices," said Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health commissioner. "We hope these restaurants will accept the judgment and become part of the solution. This regulation could prevent at least 150,000 New Yorkers from becoming obese and prevent at least 30,000 New Yorkers from developing diabetes and other health concerns over the next 5 years."

According to Section 81.50 of the New York City Health Code, the DOHMH will not begin issuing notices of violation until June 4. Fines will range between $200 and $2,000, with penalty amounts increasing for repeat violations.

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