Judge Blocks New York Rule on Restaurant Nutrition Data
Judge Richard Holwell of U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Tuesday blocked a rule enacted by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that would have required more than 2,300 restaurants in the city to post the caloric content of menu items, the New York Times reports.
Under the rule, enacted last December but delayed because of a lawsuit filed by the New York State Restaurant Association, restaurants that as of March 1 voluntarily made the caloric content of menu items available on the Internet, in brochures or in other formats would have had to list the caloric content of those items on menus and menu boards in the same type size as the name or price of the item.
In the case, the city argued that the rule would have had a "substantial potential for public health impact" because the information on the caloric content of menu items likely would have prompted consumers to decrease their consumption of food. However, the association argued that the rule would have conflicted with the 1990 federal Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which outlines some criteria for restaurants that voluntarily make the caloric content of menu items available (Feurer, New York Times, 9/12).
In the decision, Holwell ruled that the city had "chosen a regulatory approach that imposes different obligations than federal regulation" (Burke, New York Post, 9/12). According to Holwell, the city could have enacted a rule that would have required all restaurants to post the caloric content of menu items.
New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Freiden said that he expects the city to enact an alternative version of the rule that complies with the decision (Adamy, Wall Street Journal, 9/12).
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "Anyone who thinks we're going to walk away from trying to tell the public what they're eating and what it's doing to them doesn't understand the obligation this city's health department has," adding, "We have to tell people how to lead better lives" (Rivera, New York Times, 9/13).
Three broadcast programs reported on the decision. Summaries appear below.
- American Public Media's "Marketplace Morning Report": The segment includes comments from Rick Sampson of the New York State Restaurant Association (Barshay, "Marketplace Morning Report," American Public Media, 9/12). Audio and a transcript of the segment are available online.
CNBC: The segment includes a discussion with Richard Hamburg of the Trust for America's Health and Chuck Hunt of the New York State Restaurant Association (CNBC, 9/11). Video of the segment is available online.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment includes comments from Sampson and Marty Fenstersheib of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (Solomon, "Morning Edition," NPR, 9/12). Audio of the segment is available online.
Summaries of two other recent developments related to nutrition appear below.
- Burger King Holdings: Burger King on Wednesday announced plans to offer healthier menu items for children younger than age 12 and has established nutritional guidelines for advertisements that target those children, the AP/Chicago Tribune reports. Under the guidelines, Burger King will limit ads to Kids Meals that contain no more than 560 calories, less than 30% of calories from fat and no more than 10% of calories from added sugars. In 2008, Burger King will begin to offer a Kids Meal with flame-broiled Chicken Tenders, organic unsweetened applesauce and low-fat milk that contains about 305 calories and 8.5 grams of fat. Burger King also plans to offer BK Fresh Apple Fries -- raw, skinless red apples cut to resemble french fries (Sainz, AP/Chicago Tribune, 9/12).
- California: The California Legislature on Monday passed a bill that would require chain restaurants in the state to post the caloric content and other nutritional information of menu items on menus and menu boards, USA Today reports. In the event that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signs the legislation, California would become the first state to implement such a requirement, according to Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (USA Today, 9/12).