NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new rule requiring New York chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus took effect on Friday, marking a first for a U.S. city.
Starting on Saturday, health inspectors can slap fines of up to $2,000 on fast-food and casual-dining chains if calorie counts are not displayed on their menus in the same font and format as the name or price of food items.
The move follows the city’s 2003 ban on public smoking and a ban on artery-clogging trans fats that began on July 1.
New Yorkers appeared unfazed by the rule, and some said they would not be dissuaded from ordering a 540-calorie Big Mac at McDonald’s or a 440-calorie Iced lemon Loaf at Starbucks.
“I’m going to eat whatever I’m going to eat,” said Erika Roberson, 19, leaving an Applebee’s restaurant in Brooklyn.
The rule affects such restaurants as McDonald’s; Burger King; Applebee’s, operated by DineEquity Inc; Dunkin Donuts; Starbucks and Subway.
“I’m for it. I don’t think the average person has any idea what they’re eating,” said Amanda Goodwin, 33, a school administrator.
Analysts said they did not expect the rule to have much impact on consumer habits.
“I’d be shocked if consumers weren’t already aware that when they’re eating in a fast-food restaurant, the cheeseburgers and fries and fountain drinks, are not healthy,” said Morningstar analyst John Owens.
“People don’t go to McDonald’s for a healthy lunch. They go for a fast-food burger and fries,” he said.
A city study last year found 30 percent of New Yorkers were consuming more than 1,000 calories at lunchtime.
Officials say the rule could prevent at least 150,000 New Yorkers from becoming obese and prevent at least 30,000 from developing diabetes over the next five years.
The health code provision, which affects businesses with at least 15 establishments nationwide, was delayed when the New York State Restaurant Association fought back in court.
In April a federal judge upheld the rule and the restaurant association appealed, but a higher court refused to delay the regulation further.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Walsh