Wendy's Sends Scary Legal Threats Over Photoshopped Menu That Includes Calorie Info

Wendy’s has sent the CSPI a scary legal threat letter over a photoshopped sample (click image for larger version) of a possible Wendy’s menu board included as an exhibit in the ongoing “Menugate” lawsuit.

Wendy’s claims in a letter send both to CSPI and to the United States District Court of New York, that CSPI is presenting the menu board as authentic when it was in fact “doctored” (Wendy’s words) and accuses CSPI and it’s of being “misleading” and of “improper use of Wendy’s trademark.”

As Constant Readers of the blog are already aware, there’s a legal battle going on over a new NYC regulation that requires large chain restaurants that already provide nutritional information to add calorie info to their menus.

We were initially skeptical of this regulation until Subway went ahead and complied with it. The resulting menus were exceptionally useful and uncluttered-looking, and we were convinced that the regulation has merit and would help consumers make better food choices.

Incidentally, we were also sort of shocked to learn, through model menus supplied by the CSPI, that some Starbucks venti fraps have more than 700 calories.

If we didn’t know that, does the average consumer? Probably not.

And now Wendy’s is sending scary legal letters over hypothetical menus.

We have to ask you just one thing: Why would the Center for Science in the Public Interest represent a menu board with calorie information on it as an authentic Wendy’s menu board in a lawsuit where Wendy’s is trying to keep calorie information off the menu board?

Here’s the paragraph in question, the “misleading” one, in which Dr. Margo Wootan of the CSPI supposedly misrepresents the photoshopped board:

22. See Appendix C for model Starbucks and Wendy’s menus. These model menus demonstrate that providing calories on the menu can be done without being confusing, difficult to read, or cluttering the menu.

According to the CSPI, Wendy’s is the chain at the forefront of weaseling out of the new regulation.
In an effort to slip through a loophole that lets restaurant chains who do not already provide nutritional information opt out of the requirement, Wendy’s added a disclaimer to their website claiming that their nutritional information doesn’t apply to NYC.

Are we meant to believe that just by adding a legal disclaimer a Double Stack won’t make you fat?

Here’s Wendy’s explanation, from their website:

We regret that Wendy’s cannot provide product calorie information to residents or customers in New York City. The New York City Department of Health passed a regulation requiring restaurants that already provide calorie information to post product calories on their menu boards — using the same type size as the product listing.

We fully support the intent of this regulation; however, since most of our food is made-to-order, there isn’t enough room on our existing menu boards to comply with the regulation. We have for years provided complete nutritional information on posters inside the restaurant and on our website. To continue to provide caloric information to residents and customers of our New York City restaurants on our website and on our nutritional posters would subject us to this regulation. As a result, we will no longer provide caloric information to residents and customers of our New York City restaurants.

We regret this inconvenience. If you have questions about this regulation, please contact the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and refer to Health Code Section 81.50.

Made to order? What? Subway doesn’t seem to be having a problem, are their subs not “made to order?” In any case, being located in NYC didn’t stop the Consumerist from accessing nutritional information via Wendy’s site.

Anyway, thanks to Wendy’s misguided legal bullying, we’ve now read Dr. Wootan’s testimony and have learned some interesting facts about the need for better menu labeling. Think you know how many calories are in your food?

Did you know…

Two jelly-filled doughnuts at Dunkin’ Donuts have fewer calories than a sesame bagel with cream cheese?

A Frappuccino at Starbucks can have 200 more calories than the same size cappuccino?

A whole fried onion appetizer at a typical table service restaurant has 1,300 more calories than the fried mozzarella sticks?

We didn’t!

Dr. Wootan’s Testimony
Wendy’s Scary Legal Letter To CSPI (PDF)
Wendy’s Scary Legal Letter To The Court (PDF)
CSPI’s response to Wendy’s Scary Legal Letter (PDF)