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CEO DATELINE – Associations sue to block New York City calorie menu requirement

July 14, 2017
By Walt Williams

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Four associations are suing New York City to stop enforcement of a rule requiring chain restaurants to post calorie information about their menu items.

The lawsuit by the Food Marketing Institute, National Association of Convenience Stores and New York Association of Convenience Stores seeks to block compliance of the requirement until May 2018, when a federal menu labeling rule will kick in and supersede the city rule. The Restaurant Law Center—the legal arm of the National Restaurant Association—also is a plaintiff in the suit.

“The federal law preempts a municipality from taking matters into its own hands, and this is exactly what New York City is attempting to do,” said Jennifer Hatcher, FMI’s chief public policy officer. “New York City’s actions threaten interstate commerce and would introduce unneeded elements of confusion into the food retail marketplace.”

The NYC rule requires restaurant chains with at least 15 establishments nationwide to post calorie information on their menus and menu boards. Business can be fined $200 per violation. The proposed rule by the Food and Drug Administration would apply to chains with at least 20 establishments and could potentially result in civil lawsuits or criminal penalties for violators.

“New York City can’t jump the gun and start imposing fines when FDA hasn’t even figured out how (calorie) disclosures should be made,” said Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president of government relations for NACS.  “Doing that holds stores to standards that no one can meet and undermines the point of having a federal law in the first place.”

The lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. City leaders did not immediately respond to the suit.