FDA Blocks New York On Calorie Posting

Aug. 17, 2017
Many restaurant chains in the U.S. voluntarily label menus with calorie counts. But the DOJ says a provision in the Affordable Care Act gives the FDA control over calorie labeling nationwide.

The Department of Justice filed legal papers to prohibit New York City from enforcing a law requiring some stores to post calorie information on prepared foods. The agency argued that a provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act gives the FDA control over when and how to enforce calorie labeling nationwide, pre-empting the city's own menu labeling efforts, according to reports this week (Aug. 14-18).

New York City should slow down when it comes to listing calories in fast food, the FDA argued in the court documents filed this week. The FDA calls it a "unilateral" plan to enforce a local 2015 calorie-labeling law at restaurants and food retailers in New York City. That means the city's mayor Bill de Blasio can’t implement a city law as planned starting Aug. 21, the U.S. argued. The city took the action after the FDA delayed its own plans to implement the same rules nationwide three times.

"The FDA has been tasked with determining when and in what circumstances uniform menu-labeling rules will be enforced across the nation," government lawyers wrote. "The city may not choose to take its path in the face of this clear expression of Congressional purpose."

There was no indication the administration was backing away from labeling requirements completely, though President Donald Trump has promised to slash government regulations, and criticized rules put in place by his predecessor that he says gum up the economy.

Many restaurant chains across the U.S. already include calorie labeling on their menus voluntarily. Bloomberg reported that De Blasio’s office stated in May that New York City would focus on its own efforts in the name of public health, regardless of the FDA’s delay.

"While the Trump administration may disagree, knowledge is power, and that is particularly true when it comes to nutrition," New York City Council Member Corey Johnson, chairman of the Health Committee, said in the statement. "People have the right to readily-available information regarding the food they consume and the effects it will have on their health."

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