NEW YORK CITY – Thursday, March 27, 2008—The Health Department has been informed that it is not likely there will be a decision in the case challenging the calorie posting initiative before the scheduled effective date of Monday, March 31, 2008. It appears that the decision will be issued some time during the first two weeks of April.
The calorie posting requirement, Health Code §81.50, requires New York City restaurants with 15 or more outlets operating around the nation, that offer substantially the same menu items, in servings that are standardized for portion size and content, to display calorie information prominently on their menus and menu boards. The requirement was adopted by the City’s Board of Health in January and was scheduled to take effect on March 31st, with fines for noncompliant restaurants not to be sought until May 12, 2008. Since a court decision will not be issued before the effective date of March 31st, New York City and the New York State Restaurant Association entered into an agreement that would postpone the New York City Health Department’s enforcement of the calorie posting requirement until April 15th, and notices of violation seeking penalties would not be issued until May 27, 2008.
“New York City is suffering worsening epidemics of obesity and diabetes,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the City’s Health Commissioner. “To combat these conditions, and prevent their devastating consequences, consumers need information about the foods they order in chain restaurants. More informed consumers can decide to make healthier choices if they know the calorie content of their meals when they order. This continuing lawsuit is a sad commentary on some restaurants’ business practices. The New York State Restaurant Association and the chains it represents—including McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell—are so ashamed of the food they serve that they are fighting in court to avoid sharing basic information with their customers.”
When people have access to calorie information, they use it. Nearly three quarters of consumers say they look at calorie information on packaged foods in supermarkets, and about half say that nutrition information affects their food selections. The Health Department estimates that calorie posting could reduce the number of people who suffer from obesity by 150,000 over the next five years, preventing more than 30,000 cases of diabetes.