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Chains ignoring NYC's menu-labeling rule

NEW YORK Some of the country’s largest restaurant chains have indicated that they would not be complying with New York City’s requirement to list calorie counts on menu boards and menus when the controversial rule takes effect July 1.

McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, White Castle and Quiznos say they have no immediate plans to list calorie counts on the menus, as required by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in a regulation passed late last year. Chain executives are hoping that the recent lawsuit filed in federal court by the New York State Restaurant Association claiming the health department overstepped its authority will either convince the court to overturn the rule or result in some sort of compromise. As a result of the pending lawsuit, the health department said it would not begin citing and fining restaurants for being out of compliance until October.

The health department ruling requires that all restaurants already offering calorie information on the Internet, food wrappers, tray liners or in brochures must list the information on menus and menu boards. It is estimated that the ruling affects about 2,000 foodservice outlets, or about 10 percent of all New York restaurants.

Irwin Kruger, whose company, ISK Manhattan Inc., operates seven franchised McDonald’s outlets in Manhattan, said menu boards with calorie counts would not be in place in July. “We have nothing to hide,” Kruger said. “We’re happy to provide nutritional information in the stores in brochures or on the Web. That’s nothing new for us. But this recent demand is not practical and serves no purpose. It’s clearly impossible for us to list that much information on menu boards.”

McDonald’s, meanwhile, said all of its 254 locations in New York had complied with the city’s July 1 ban on partially hydrogenated vegetable oil by replacing all cooking oil with an artificial-trans-fat-free canola blend.

Wendy’s International, meanwhile, maintained that because it removed nutritional information from its New York City stores and the Internet prior to Feb. 28, 2007, it is exempt from the regulation and will not be posting calorie count information in its 53 New York outlets. The health department contended that because the chain did not remove all nutritional information from its website, it was not exempt.

Denny Lynch, a spokesman for the Dublin, Ohio-based chain, said Wendy’s has provided nutrition information to customers for almost 30 years and would like to continue to do so. However, he maintains, the New York regulations are not workable. He said the company offered to hang posters listing nutritional information in all New York stores as an alternative means of compliance, but the health department rejected the solution. “We’re continue to have a dialog with them, and hope we can reach a commonsense solution,” he said.

Meanwhile, Subway, the Milford, Conn.-based sandwich chain said it intends to comply with the New York regulations and will have new menu panels in place by July 1. The chain unveiled new menu boards that generally list specific calorie counts for 6-inch sandwiches along the left-hand side of the menu item. For foot-long subs, the menu items provide a range of 450 to 750 calories.


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