NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York’s fast food restaurants can ignore a city law aimed at making it easier for consumers to tell how many calories are packed into their burgers, fries or tacos, a judge ruled on Tuesday.
The new city law stopped short of forcing all restaurants to post calorie and fat counts on their menus, but said those outlets that already make such information available should post it on their menus in typeface as large as the menu item.
U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell ruled in a lawsuit that the city had the power to mandate nutritional labeling, but the regulation at issue was pre-empted by a 1990 federal law that first established nutritional labeling. That law sets out guidelines for voluntary presentations of nutritional information, such as on tray papers or on Web sites.
Restaurants that voluntarily comply with federal regulations for standardized portions cannot be restricted in how they comply by city law, Holwell found.
“There are areas that government just should not be involved in and this is obviously one of them,” said Rick Sampson, the president of the New York State Restaurant Association, an organization of over 7,000 restaurants that includes McDonalds and Burger King, which brought the lawsuit.
The Department of Health said it would consider new legislation. “Unfortunately, the judge found that New York City’s calorie-labeling initiative is pre-empted on a technicality,” it said in a statement.
The city’s rule was to have taken effect on July 1, but a three-month grace period barring any fines from being issued until October means that it has not yet gone into effect.