NEW YORK Three months after New York City chain restaurants were forced to comply with the city’s menu-labeling mandate, health department officials said they have issued 682 citations, with McDonald’s receiving the most, and have fined individual restaurants between $200 and $2,000 each.
The rule — the first of its kind in the United States — requires the on-menu posting of calorie counts for every standard food and drink item at local branches of chains with 15 or more units nationwide. It was enacted in May after prolonged legal battles, and operators were given an almost three-month grace period to comply.
Elliott Marcus, associate commissioner of the New York City Health Department’s Bureau of Food Safety and Community Sanitation, said most of the violations involve instances in which calorie information was posted incorrectly, especially for items that require a range of calories in order to reflect ingredient choices.
Marcus said McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts are two chains in which “individual franchise operators haven’t gotten it quite right.”
Since the health department began issuing the violations, McDonald’s restaurants have received 103 citations and Dunkin’ Donuts has received 89 citations. Kentucky Fried Chicken stores have received 32 violations and both Starbucks and Subway have 26 citations each. Burger King has a total of 23 citations.
Nearly half of the violations were issued to locations not in compliance with the rule during the first six weeks following the mandate’s July 18 deadline for enforcement. The health department could not give an estimate for the total dollar amount of the fines already issued, but did indicate that fines for July and August combined resulted in only a few hundred dollars.
“There are still a lot of things that need to shake out,” Marcus said. “Since we’ve really been enforcing [the law] the industry is doing a good job [with compliance], and certainly we will work with groups who need help in getting the calories posted correctly.”
Marcus said that in the case of Subway, for instance, the violations occurred because operators did not know they had to post caloric information for both the 6-inch sub offering and the $5 Footlong promotion. At the Starbucks units, citations were issued mainly because one or two items were missing calorie displays. In both cases, Marcus added, the restaurants are working to correct the problems.