NYC To Vote On New And Improved Menu Labeling Regulation

The New York City Board of Health will vote today on a new regulation requiring calories on menu boards in New York City. The former rule was shot down by a federal judge who ruled that the regulation’s criteria for determining which restaurants would be required to post calorie information on their menus was illegal.

Instead of requiring restaurants who “already provide nutritional information” to do so on their menus, the new regulation will compel restaurants with more than 15 locations nationwide to post calorie information on menus or menu boards.

The new regulation will go into effect on March 31.

Health Department Pushes For Calorie Listings Again [NY1]

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  1. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    Thank the beefs king for this! Finally, If this makes it to federal law, I can finally figure out if a meal at IHOP really is 5×10^8 calories.

  2. UpsetPanda says:

    *shudder* IHOP has to be on the level of Denny’s or Bob Evans when it comes to crappy breakfast food with more calories than actual food.

  3. lovelygirl says:

    I don’t see why this is necessary. At least it’s only affecting chain restaurants, because that would be horrible for small business owners to have to pay to update all of their menu boards. I really don’t care how many calories are in my food, in fact the more the better! I need to gain some weight haha. The government should not be responsible for our health. How old are we? We should know to make better choices ourselves rather than depending on the government to tell us what’s bad or good! It’s the principle of the thing.

  4. DallasDMD says:

    @lovelygirl: We should know to make better choices ourselves rather than depending on the government to tell us what’s bad or good! It’s the principle of the thing.

    But we don’t. Encouraging people to make healthy choices by requiring basic caloric information on menus is hardly an example of government oppression.

  5. freshyill says:

    @lovelygirl: This is necessary consumer information. The government isn’t telling us what to eat, it’s only making restaurants give us the information we need to make these informed decisions for ourselves. We have a right to know what we’re buying.

  6. InspectorxGadget says:

    Requiring greater equity of information between the parties in a transaction HELPS the free market. This isn’t typical government overstepping its power.

  7. UpsetPanda says:

    @lovelygirl: No, the government shouldn’t be responsible for people making good choices…but whenever I walk into a restaurant, I want to know that my vegetables aren’t cooked in a vat of butter. Sometimes I see on the menu ‘steamed vegetables’ and know they probably aren’t steamed at all.

  8. QWGHLM says:

    Hopefully Quizno’s gets taken down via this regulation. Those sneaky bastards.

  9. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    The government shouldn’t be wasting their time/money/effort on things like this. Sure health is important, but why shift the burden on to the restaurants? This should be a voluntary effort, not a law or regulation.

  10. balthisar says:

    So what about restaurants with fewer than 15 nation wide locations? Why isn’t this discrimination? Err, illegal discrimination, that is? Why should McDonald’s be held to a higher standard than Bob’s Gyro stand?

    I can’t wait for the next chain just to take down their menu boards and hand out paper menus to everyone who enters!

  11. misteral says:

    This is both good and bad. Calories are but one measure of a food item. You can easily turn a package over in a grocery store and groc this information, but in a restaurant, especially a fast food joint, it becomes more difficult. Nutritional pamphlets are not in standardized locations, and may need re-ordering.

  12. UpsetPanda says:

    @balthisar: Well, if you eat at Bob’s Gyro stand five times a week, it might be good to know the information… I was watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (or is it drive-thrus?) with that annoying spiky-haired guy, and there was this one burger place that used up to a pound of cheddar with every burger patty, and I just sat there kind of sick to my stomach because I knew how many calories were in thre and when they talked to people there about how many times they went a week, a lot of them said up to three times a day. So yes, I can see how regulation of local joints is a good thing, even though you know that you’re eating a heart attack.

    At the same time…large chain joints are more likely to be frequented just because there are more locations so I understand why they went after the big fish.

  13. dgcaste says:

    Nobody wins by eating out. Your pockets empty and your gut does the reverse. Consumers have made it fashionable and fun to go out to eat, and has largely contributed to fatness.

  14. UpsetPanda says:

    @dgcaste: I’d agree, except that I have yet to see evidence to suggest that people have overall become more fat just because they go out to eat. I can cook something with 1,000 calories at home with a deep fryer and some chicken. I’m cooking at home, aren’t I? At the same time, I can make a 200 calorie salad, or order one at a restaurant. It’s not about restaurants or the act of eating out being evil or being the main contributor to obesity, it’s the choices people make to go overboard with eating more unhealthy foods than they should.

  15. @lovelygirl: It has been shown that if you advertise something as low fat, but you add a bunch of disclaimers at the bottom, people will eat more because they think it is healthier. I hate when I all of those sandwich commercials saying 5 grams of fat, and then in real fast small letters, they explain that that is just for a sandwich on bread, and no condiments. If they were so proud of this info, and didn’t think it was misleading, then they would keep that info up.

    I occasionally eat out, and calorie counts don’t matter much to me, because it’s a once a month/year thing, but people who make it a part of their day, like NYC residents, it will HELP them make a INFORMED decision for THEMSELVES. It’s not the government telling them what not to eat.

  16. dgcaste says:

    @JD: how many people do you know with a deep fryer at home, let alone one they use everyday? first, those meals purchased on the go are more than 1000 calories. second, people that eat out often eat out every day, the equivalent of using that deep fat fryer everyday. looking at the sales numbers for the taco bells, mcd’s, bk’s, kfc’s, it definitely hasn’t made people skinner and wealthier!

    not to mention the amount of DUI’s from dinner restaurants. people that go to bars are more likely to get a cab than a 40 year old that had too many pink margaritas at TGIs.

  17. RvLeshrac says:

    @balthisar:

    Bob’s Gyro Stand can’t necessarily afford all of the testing and measuring you need done in order to determine the content of the food. They’re probably just barely breaking even.

    People don’t seem to undertand that only the _CHAIN_ restaurants (inc. franchises) make tons of money. Your average restaurant in a town doesn’t make much over cost, which is why so many of them fail.

  18. @dgcaste: Anyone with a deep pan/pot, some oil, and a heat source has a deep fryer. I’m not even going to count people who own a turkey fryer.

  19. algormortis says:

    I did offhand ask how many calories were in something at the Cheesecake Factory last week and the gent waiting on us went back, asked/looked up the result and told me roughly how many calories could be deducted by doing this, that, or the other thing.

    I swapped asparagus for fries, saved 400 calories, and still had my rich, delicious entree. Cost me a buck more but, dudes…it’s asparagus, the best vegetable ever. Of course, I probably ate half those calories in bread, but that’s another story.

  20. @RvLeshrac: It’s not the cost of analysis, it’s because their portions are not standardized like the pre-made patties/meat slices at chain restaurants. Also, different chefs add in different ingredients to suit their own tastes. It would not be that hard to look at an ingredient list/recipe, plug the foods and amounts into a calorie calculator, and get a rough “minimum”.

  21. @algormortis: While I like the idea of french fry cheescake, Asparagus Cheesecake just sounds plain nasty.

  22. UpsetPanda says:

    @dgcaste: So now you’re attributing drunken behavior and drunk driving to eating at a restaurant?

    Yes, several fast food meals are more than a thousand calories, but there are no rules that say you must, must, must, put a gun to your head, MUST eat there every single day of your life. Those who do do it because they want to, or because it’s convenient.

    It all comes to choice. I eat at KFC and McDonalds once in a while. I’m neither poor nor obese. But if I did eat there every single day, and didn’t understand the difference between the double cheeseburger and the big mac was about 200 calories, maybe I would be. And maybe this push to make that information available might help inform some people about proper nutrition and eating habits.

  23. dgcaste says:

    @JD: I am directly supporting this move. A lot of restaurants reject posting calories under the pretense that “amounts can vary wildly depending on the season and the chef”.

    On drunken driving, it was a slight tangential offshoot that I’ve always had a bone to pick about. Just another reason why I normally disapprove of “eating out”.

    Home meals are, on average, healthier than the average meal served on the street. That needs some evidencing which would not be hard to gather and I think I’m going to spend some time on very soon, but God didn’t make me smart so I could disregard my gut (no pun intended).

    @GitEmSteveDave: It’s hard to eat healthy out there. At least at home you have more of an option. I understand your point, everyone has some sort of frying device, but it’s uncommon for people to pour half a gallon of oil to fry their chicken in. Then again I’m not from the South. Thank God for Shake n Bake.

  24. algormortis says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: i just split the cheesecake with others. this passes around the guilt.

    but you’re right: french fry cheesecake sounds intriguing. you know what could be even better? mozzarella stick-based cheesecake.

    my nurse practitioner just called. something about “beatdown”. hmm, maybe i should quit saying these things out loud.

  25. girly says:

    I don’t even think this has to be about health. It’s about being able to see that the stats on an item meet any claims or just to know more information about it.

    I don’t see it as much different than posting the octane ratings for gas.

    It’s information that the consumer has a right to know.

  26. char says:

    @dgcaste: Quick frying lesson, when deep frying, using more oil in pot results in less oily food. Oily fried food is caused by the tempature of the oil dropping below 375, below this tempature the water at the surface of the food doesn’t boil, and the oil can enter the dish. at 375 the water boils, creating steam, and pushing a wall against the oil trying to enter the food. Deep frying food at 375, and not overcooking it means the food on the other side isn’t terrible for you. We’re not talking steamed here, but I’d wager it’s better than ingesting the mass of chemicals known as “Shake and Bake”

  27. Joafu says:

    @char: This is my favorite part of consumerist, I learn little tidbits about life that I normally wouldn’t seek out or even begin to wonder about. Thank you Char.

    On posted calorie information, if restaurants are required to post, it makes more sense if they posted the meal as most often served, as opposed to least amount of possible calories. What I mean is, Subway posts their calorie information with only meat, veggies, bread. Instead: post with cheese, dressings etc, and have another chart subtracting calories for each side you choose to take off (without two triangles- 80 less calories, etc). I don’t think I’m making sense anymore, time for food.

  28. joemono says:

    Why don’t we just cut to the chase and have a) the person serving you tell you once you’re done ordering how many calories are in your meal and/or b) print it out on your receipt?

  29. chiieddy says:

    It’s too bad calories only provide part of the picture. You need to look at full nutritional information to really know what you’re getting. What’s the sodium? The RDA of Sodium is 2300 mcg. Most fast food menu items, even if only 1/3 of a 2000 kcal diet will give you more than 50% of your RDA of Sodium. What’s the fat? The carbs? Fiber? Sugar? Protein?

  30. balthisar says:

    @RvLeshrac: That’s not true. You don’t test for this stuff any more. You know how much of each ingredient it contains, and use the official government tables. A gram of fat is a gram of fat everywhere.

    If the little guy can’t make it on the same playing field, then he deserves to fold.

  31. dgcaste says:

    @char: Thanks, that was actually interesting. However, shake and bake is cracker and spices, of course not without the preservatives, but you are almost not able to avoid those.

  32. lovelygirl says:

    I agree, calories are just one thing. It’s hardly enough to be helpful to making an informed choice. Something can have 50 calories but 500 grams of sodium. Why should calories be measured? And why is it essential information to the consumer? Unless you have a health concern and your doctor tells you to count your calories, why should you be doing that? What’s the difference in calories going to do? It’s just a front to make consumers think they’re going to be eating healthy.

  33. freshyill says:

    @lovelygirl: Calories are just one thing, and while they don’t provide the whole picture, knowing the calories in a food gives you a good enough quick overview of the nutritional content. Many, many people count calories. Everybody has different nutritional needs, but we all need to eat a certain number of calories. Many people know how many calories they should eat in a day. It would be very useful to have access to this information. Stop picking nits to find a way to push your ridiculous anti-government agenda. This is an example of the government looking out for the people it serves. Everybody but you seems to get that.

  34. kizzle says:

    @lovelygirl: When this law passes, I’m sure restaurants will try to find some ways by making their food “taste good” (read: sneakily insert food that is bad for us but tastes good) while still lowering their overall calories. But it still helps, and while the amount of calories isn’t the end-all statistic that determines a healthy eating lifestyle, it does correlate to a better diet (though not absolutely). I’d personally love to see what happens to places like McDonald’s. At the very least, they would probably have to come up with low calorie alternatives that aren’t salads, which benefits consumer choice. Even if they don’t change, people who are blissfully ignorant that their double whopper with cheese and a milkshake destroys their suggested daily intake of saturated fat will at least be confronted with that fact and might think twice before basing their diet around restaurants like McDonald’s.

    On a side note, I find it interesting that your rationales against this plan keep shifting (government overstepping its bounds, calories not being the absolute statistic to measure healthy food), as it seems you’ve already made up your mind about this proposal regardless of contrary evidence.