Court upholds New York's calorie-posting rule

by Staff
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NEW YORK — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Feb. 17 upheld the city of New York’s regulation that requires some chain restaurants to post calories on menus and menu boards.

The court said the rule is a reasonable effort to help curb obesity. The New York State Restaurant Association argued federal law negated the rule and the city violated the First Amendment by forcing its view on restaurant patrons that calories are the most important consideration on the menu. The three-judge panel disagreed, saying the rule simply mandates factual information and is related to the city’s goals of reducing obesity. In addition, the court said consumers typically can’t assess well how many calories are in foods.

"This is good news for everyone," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. "Nearly all chain restaurants are now complying with the law. Consumers are learning more about the food before they order, and the market for healthier alternatives is growing. We applaud the court for its decision, and we thank the restaurant industry for living by the rules."

New York is believed to be the first city to enact such a rule, but California and Philadelphia have passed similar regulations.

Beth Johnson, executive vice-president for public affairs at the National Restaurant Association, used the court’s decision as an opportunity to call for establishment of a uniform national nutrition standard.

"The only way to ensure consumers get the nutrition information they want and need is for the federal government to establish a uniform national nutrition standard that requires chain restaurants to provide consistent, detailed nutrition information in writing in their restaurants," Ms. Johnson said. "The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in favor of the New York City menu labeling mandate does not help more consumers get more nutrition information. Rather, it makes a confusing patchwork of state regulations even worse. As a growing number of cities and towns move ahead with different versions of menu-labeling mandates for restaurants, America’s consumers face a bewildering array of locally mandated nutrition data. Some people may get access to more information — but no one is getting all the nutrition information they need to make smart food choices when dining out. We need one national standard so everyone can have access to the nutrition information they want when they want it."

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