UPDATE: Menu labeling isn’t dead yet, the CSPI says the judge objected to an easily fixable condition of the NYC regulation.
The menu labeling controversy got a little more controversial today when a federal judge ruled that NYC could not require fast food restaurants to post calorie information on their menus. From the Associated Press:
U.S. District Judge Richard J. Holwell said he determined the rule conflicted with federal law. Businesses had claimed that their First Amendment rights were violated by the rule, described as the first of its kind in the nation, but Howell said he reached his decision without needing to address those claims.
In the last 25 years, obesity rates have doubled among U.S. adults and tripled among children, and rates have increased in every state in the nation, the groups said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in a 2005 study that approximately 112,000 deaths are associated with obesity each year, making obesity the second leading contributor to premature death, behind tobacco.
In arguments supporting the city’s rule, the groups argued that an adverse ruling would undermine pending legislation in state and local legislatures around the country.
Legislation similar to New York City’s is under way in 14 states where obesity rates have recently surged – Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Vermont.
Nutrition labeling legislation has also been introduced in Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington.
New York City’s rule took effect in July, but enforcement was suspended pending the outcome of the court fight.
Initially we thought this rule sounded stupid, but then Subway complied with it rather than join the lawsuit and we saw how useful the idea was, especially for people who are trying to control their weight. Having the calorie information on the menu board makes it easy for consumers to compare menu choices and encourages personal responsibility without limiting choices for people who want as much bacon as possible at all times.
Will Subway continue to provide calorie information on its menu boards even though it doesn’t have to? We hope so.