A NY restaurant trade group is asking a court to outlaw a New York City Heath Board regulation that will require primarily large chain restaurants and fast food outlets, such as McDonald’s and Burger King (who have standard menus,) to display the calorie count of their menu items on the menu.
Only restaurants that already supply nutritional info would be affected by the rule. According to the AP, “The New York State Restaurant Association filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, asking that the rule be declared unconstitutional and that it be awarded unspecified damages.” The NYSRA claims that the rule violates the restaurant owner’s First Amendment rights, and discourages restaurants from providing nutritional information for fear they they will be required to post it on the menu.
“This is about a big, powerful government agency trying to micro-manage local businesses and the choices available to New York consumers at their local neighborhood restaurants,” said NYSRA President & CEO Rick Sampson.
Center for Science in the Public Interest Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson, responded in a statement,
“The New York City Board of Health was absolutely right to require certain large restaurant chains to put calorie counts on menu boards. When it goes into effect this measure will be of enormous help to New Yorkers who are watching their weight, or trying to make healthy choices for their children. What does the industry have to fear, other than the fact that some people might get medium sodas instead of large, or regular hamburgers instead of Triple Whoppers? Or, heaven forbid, that restaurants actually compete on the basis of nutrition, and begin to offer more items with fewer calories and more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables?
To claim that nutrition labeling is a violation of the First Amendment is to throw the Constitution into a fryolator until it’s crispy.
The New York City Health Department said in its own statement, “It is unfortunate that some restaurants are so ashamed of what they are serving the public that they would rather go to court than share this information with their customers.”
The health department claims that 1 in 10 restaurants will be subject to the rule, which goes into affect July 1st. They have no plans to expand the calorie requirement to restaurants without a “standard” menu.
We find it rather amusing that fast food and chain restaurants are this terrified of posting basic nutritional information, and that the NYSRA considers McDonald’s a “local neighborhood restaurant.” Couldn’t they have thought of a better way to spin this? Maybe find one of these mythical local restaurant owners who would be affected by the rule and who could then offer quotes to the media?
Or, perhaps they could tell us that zombies and the undead are attracted to information printed on menus and we are in danger of having our brains eaten. We’re not saying we totally agree with this rule, but the NYSRA’s spin is complete crap.—MEGHANN MARCO
Desperate Restaurant Chains Sue NYC Over Diners’ Right to Know [CSPI]
Group Sues NYC Over New Calorie Rules [Forbes]
New York State Restaurant Association Files Suit in Federal Court to Stop NYC Big Government From Interfering with Local Restaurants (.doc) [NYSRA]