NEW YORK Attorneys for the New York State Restaurant Association opened the trade group’s lawsuit against New York City in U.S. District Court here today, arguing that the city’s health department overstepped its authority when it ruled that some restaurants must list calorie counts on menus and menu boards.
The NYSRA maintains that only the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has the authority to mandate that restaurants post nutritional content on menus.
NYSRA attorneys also argued that the regulation discriminates by requiring only restaurants that already list calorie content on the Internet or brochures to also post the information on menus and menu boards. As a result, chains that already offer nutritional content voluntarily have felt compelled to remove that information in an effort to avoid having to post it on menus or menu boards, thereby impinging their First Amendment rights.
While the judge deferred judgment for an undisclosed time, Chuck Hunt, executive vice president of the New York City chapter of the NYSRA, said he felt the argument went “very well. Our attorneys convincingly showed that the city’s regulation 81.50 is pre-empted by federal law.”
Industry experts are watching this case closely because it is expected to set a precedent for future arguments against state or locally mandated menu-labeling initiatives. The county Board of Health for Washington state’s King County recently approved a set of menu labeling regulations that would require chains to post even more extensive nutrition information on their menus.