Feb. 17, 2009
The U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the New York City Board of Health's menu labeling law, rejecting the New York Restaurant Association's challenge to the 2007 regulation. The rule requires restaurants with at least 15 stores in a chain to prominently display calorie information on their menus.
According to The New York Times, a three-judge panel of the appellate court rejected the restaurant association's arguments that the rule was pre-empted by federal Food and Drug Administration regulations and that it violated the First Amendment rights of restaurants.
The panel found that Congress intended to exempt restaurant food from the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 and left the question of whether to require the posting of information like calorie counts to state and local governments. The judges further ruled that the First Amendment was not violated.
"The only way to ensure consumers get the nutrition information they want and need is for the federal government to establish a uniform national nutrition standard that requires chain restaurants to provide consistent, detailed nutrition information in writing in their restaurants.
"The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in favor of the New York City menu labeling mandate does not help more consumers get more nutrition information. Rather, it makes a confusing patchwork of state regulations even worse. As a growing number of cities and towns move ahead with different versions of menu-labeling mandates for restaurants, America's consumers face an increasing array of locally mandated nutrition data. Some people may get access to more information, but no one is getting all the nutrition information they need to make smart food choices when dining out. We need one national standard so everyone can have access to the nutrition information they want when they want it. And that is what the LEAN (Labeling Education and Nutrition) Act will provide.
"The LEAN Act is based on the success of the federal Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) and proposes expanding it to restaurants. NLEA was enacted over a decade ago to provide consumers with nutrition information on packaged foods and beverages. It has been credited with helping consumers make healthier food choices when shopping for food or eating at home. The LEAN Act will expand NLEA to require point-of-sale nutrition data on standardized menu items sold by chain restaurants. This gives customers in chain restaurants the same comprehensive nutrition data about menu items that they have gotten used to reading on packaged food labels.
"Until we have a single, consistent national nutrition standard to provide detailed nutrition information in chain-restaurant locations to every consumer, we will not be giving people the information they want and need to make smart food choices when they dine out."