New York City Board of Health (Again) Votes to Put Calories on Chain Restaurant Menus and Menu Boards

Restaurant Industry Lawsuit Against Previous Proposal Backfires

January 22, 2008

WASHINGTON—The New York City Board of Health today unanimously voted to require the city’s chain restaurants with more than 15 units nationally to list calories on menus and menu boards. A previously passed regulation was blocked by a federal judge who found that by only applying the regulations to restaurants with existing public nutrition information, the measure was preempted by federal law. The rule passed today addresses the judges concerns and avoids conflicting with federal law. Chains must comply by March 31.

“It’s going to get a lot easier to make informed choices at New York City’s chain restaurants this spring,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. “At fast-food burger chains like McDonald’s and Burger King, and at table-service chains like Olive Garden and Applebee’s, consumers will have one key piece of nutrition information, calories, to help them make the right choices for themselves and their families. We expect that many more cities, counties, and states will require menu labeling once they see how easy it is for these chains to list calories on menus.”

Today’s vote comes as something of an embarrassment for the New York State Restaurant Association, whose bungled legal strategy set the stage for a broader regulation that now includes chains that presently make no nutrition information available to their customers, such as such as TGI Friday’s and Outback Steakhouse. Several chains, including Chipotle, Quiznos, Wendy’s, and White Castle had actually pulled nutrition information from websites or posters in an attempt to avoid complying with the city’s previous regulation. But now they will have to comply since they each have more than 15 units nationally.

Subway and Auntie Anne’s have been using menus with calories since last summer when New York City’s first menu labeling regulations were to take effect. Philadelphia, San Francisco, Maryland’s Montgomery County, New York’s Nassau and Westchester Counties, and Oregon’s Multnomah County, which includes Portland, are working on menu labeling proposals this year.


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