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New York City Fights Obesity Introducing Calorie Rule

Armen Hareyan's picture

NYC Calorie Rule

New Measure In New York City In An Effort To Fight Obesity Requires Restaurants with 15 or More Outlets to Post Calories on Menus and Menu Boards.

The Board of Health of New York City today voted to solicit public comment on a new calorie posting proposal that would require chain restaurants to prominently display calorie information on their menus and menu boards. Providing customers with prominently displayed calorie information at the time of purchase will help guide informed and healthier food choices, an important step in addressing the obesity epidemic that now affects millions of New York City residents.

The new regulation would apply only to New York City chain restaurants that have 15 or more outlets nationwide, with menus and menu items that are standardized for content and portion size. The rule would cover about 10% of all New York City restaurants. A public hearing is scheduled for November 27, 2007, and the Board of Health is expected to vote on the measure in January. If adopted, the regulation would take effect on March 31, 2008. The calorie proposal is available here online.

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"Obesity and diabetes are the only major health problems that are getting worse, and getting worse rapidly," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. "What people choose to eat and drink is of course entirely up to them. This measure will help people make more informed choices. Obesity and diabetes cause blindness, amputations, and tens of thousands of early deaths from strokes and heart attacks. Posting calorie information will help people make healthier choices about what to eat and drink - and live longer, healthier lives."

An earlier calorie listing proposal, passed by the Board of Health in December 2006, was challenged in a lawsuit brought by the New York State Restaurant Association. In September 2007, a federal judge ruled that the previous regulation, as written, was preempted by federal regulations. But the judge affirmed the City's authority to mandate posting of calorie information, stating the regulation would not be pre-empted if it applied to all chain restaurants with more than a certain number of outlets. The Health Department's new proposal addresses this issue and updates the previous measure.

Calories Count!

Chain restaurants play a significant role in the obesity problem. The proportion of calories Americans consume away from home doubled between 1977 and 1996. Besides eating out more often, we are eating ever-larger portions. Chain restaurants serve food that has been clearly associated with excess calories and obesity. Studies show that people who eat fast food regularly consume more calories than those who do not.