Lawsuit seeks to block New York City menu rules

(Reuters) - New York City was sued on Friday by food industry groups that want to stop it from requiring restaurants, convenience stores, supermarkets and other businesses to post calorie and other nutritional information on menus.

The city began enforcing those requirements on May 22, nearly a year ahead of the deadline to comply with federal menu disclosure rules, which aim to help people battle obesity and other diet-related ailments.

But according to the complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the federal government has the power to enforce such rules, and the city’s decision to act faster violated federal law.

The plaintiffs, which include the Food Marketing Institute, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and the Restaurant Law Center, asked the court to block New York City from enforcing its rules before the May 7, 2018 deadline to comply with U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules.

New York City vowed to defend its actions.

“We are confident that our updated calorie labeling rules announced this past May will withstand scrutiny,” Christopher Miller, a spokesman for the city’s Board of Health, said in an email. “It’s just good, commonsense policy that benefits all New Yorkers.”

The city had in 2008 been the nation’s first to pass calorie disclosure rules for restaurant chains and movie theaters.

Then in 2015, it amended its rules to match federal requirements that covered convenience stores and supermarkets.

The FDA rules are part of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, or Obamacare, which the Trump administration has vowed to repeal in a bid to slash regulations it considers harmful to business. FDA regulators recently extended the compliance deadline.

“New York City can’t jump the gun and start imposing fines when FDA hasn’t even figured out how disclosures should be made,” Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president of government relations for the NACS, said in a statement.

Public health advocates say greater nutritional disclosures help people make healthier food choices. Americans consume roughly one-third of their calories away from home.

The case is the National Association of Convenience Stores et al v New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-05324. (Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York)