NYC to begin ticketing under labeling law

NEW YORK New York City’s health department said it would start issuing notices of violation as of May 5 to local chain restaurants that fail to follow a new requirement to post calorie counts on their menus or menu boards. However, the department said it would not impose any fines until July 18 to give restaurants time to comply. Any establishment with a violation will receive a followup compliance inspection, health department officials said.

The calorie disclosure requirement, which was reinstated by a federal appeals court yesterday, obliges local units of chains with at least 15 units nationwide to provide calorie counts for all standard menu items, including alcoholic beverages. The court denied a request from the New York State Restaurant Association to extend a halt in enforcement of the measure, which had been slated to take effect April 21.

The restaurant association is continuing its efforts to overturn the rule. Hearings on the group’s legal challenge are expected to begin June 9. The three-judge court of appeals directed attorneys for the NYSRA to provide an opinion at that time from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration about its jurisdiction over menu labeling. The association is arguing in its lawsuit that nutrition disclosure is the purview of the federal government, and hence not subject to local regulation. 

Starbucks, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Quiznos and Jamba Juice are already posting the information on their menu boards in New York.

“With [Tuesday’s] decision, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, and the other big chains that haven't yet listed calories as required by the health code have run out of stalling tactics,” said Thomas R. Frieden, commissioner of the city's health department. “Some chains have worked hard to deny customers information they need to make healthy food choices, but this decision starts to clear the way for people to have ready access to calorie information when they order their food. A quarter or more of the outlets covered by this regulation are already complying.”