NEW YORK The New York State Restaurant Association engaged in the second round of its legal challenge to the city’s controversial menu labeling law on Thursday, arguing that New York City officials are pre-empted from mandating on-menu calorie disclosures. Only the U.S. Food and Drug Administration possesses that power, NYSRA’s attorneys maintained.
The association also contended that the measure would violate First Amendment protections against forced speech.
Attorneys for the NYSRA also maintained that it was "irrational" that the law only applied to 10 percent of the city's restaurants. However, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Holwell said it was within the city's rights to proceed in such a manner and that it provided no reason for dismissal.
The association's attorneys also pointed out that there were "multiple ways to communicate the calorie content in restaurants," despite the fact that the city is insisting that calories must be listed on menus or menu boards alongside the particular food items.
"The city is saying 'It's my way or the highway,'" NYSRA's attorney said.
NYSRA is challenging the city health board's revised regulations requiring all restaurant chains operating at least 15 outlets nationwide to display calorie counts on menu boards, menus or food tags. A similar municipal policy set to be enacted last summer was struck down by Holwell after it was similarly disputed in court by the NYSRA.
At the time, Holwell ruled that the city had violated federal standards by narrowing it only to chains that voluntarily disclosed calorie data.
Holwell said he intends to issue a ruling on the new challenge before the law is enacted on March 31.
City attorneys said there would be a six-week grace period following the date of enactment before any fines would be levied.