NEW YORK -- The Food and Drug Administration has filed court papers in support of an effort to overturn a New York City law requiring calorie counts to be posted by certain establishments — at least the second time the Trump administration has inserted itself into a local case.
Also read, Changes to FDA Menu Labeling Law Threatens Transparency.
The most recent case involves a lawsuit filed in July by a group of trade organizations representing restaurants and convenience stores; the suit challenges a city law, which went into effect in May, that requires certain establishments to provide calorie counts and other nutritional information about menu items and other prepared food.
The plaintiffs have asked a judge to grant an injunction to keep the city from enforcing the law, which it plans to start doing on Monday. A federal judge will hold a hearing in the case in Manhattan on Wednesday.
The fight dates to efforts by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to promote healthier eating and combat obesity, including the city’s original menu-labeling law that went into effect in 2008 and mandated that chain restaurants post calorie counts.
Other cities and some states enacted similar laws, and the restaurant industry appealed to the federal government to create a single law that would standardize such requirements nationwide. Congress included the menu-labeling requirement in the Affordable Care Act in 2010. But the F.D.A. was slow to write rules, and under President Obama it repeatedly delayed the implementation of the menu labeling aspect of the health care law.
In 2015, New York City updated its menu-labeling law to mirror the federal legislation, intending for both to go into effect at the same time.
But the federal law continued to encounter delays. It was finally supposed to go into effect in May — when the Trump administration postponed it for another year.
By then New York had had enough, and in May the city announced that its updated calorie labeling law would go into effect, and that it would begin enforcing the regulation in August, including fining establishments that did not comply.
The new law, like the federal rules, expanded the original New York legislation to include chain grocery stores and convenience stores that sell prepared foods like hot dogs, sandwiches or some salad bar items. It also required restaurants and stores that are covered by the law to provide additional nutritional information about prepared foods, including nutrient contents and ingredients, and to post a statement about the daily recommended dietary intake of 2,000 calories.
Many chain outlets are already in compliance with the law, and most if not all had continued to provide calorie counts for menu items required by the original New York City law.
But in the lawsuit, the group of trade organizations argued that the federal law pre-empted the city labeling law, and so the city was barred from carrying it out.
On Monday, Joon H. Kim, the acting United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, filed a statement of interest supporting the industry groups’ argument.
The city responded by releasing a statement from the health commissioner, Mary T. Bassett, saying they were disappointed that the federal government was opposing enforcement of the city law.
“The F.D.A. has taken the position that chains can stop providing customers with critical nutrition information,” the statement said. “Poor nutrition is fueling an epidemic of chronic diseases, and this basic information should be accessible and transparent to all.”
Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, suggested that the latest delay was part of an industry push under the Trump administration to eliminate the federal menu labeling requirement altogether.
The F.D.A. said in an emailed statement that it “believes that equipping consumers with clear and consistent information is important for helping them make informed decisions about the food they eat.” It said that it intended to move ahead with implementing the federal labeling rules next May.
SOURCE William Neuman, The New York Times
News & Updates
Stay informed with the latest news around foodservice, agriculture and other related food news.