From: Reuters
Published April 16, 2008 01:55 PM

Court OKs NYC calorie-count rule for restaurants

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City officials can require fast-food restaurants to post signs telling customers how many calories are in their meals, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

"The required disclosure of calorie information is reasonably related to the government's interest in providing consumers with accurate nutritional information," U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell said in his ruling in the court in lower Manhattan.

The city's health code provision, which affects businesses that have at least 15 establishments nationwide, is to take effect on Tuesday.

The lawsuit, filed by the New York State Restaurant Association, sought to prevent the city from dictating to restaurants how large to display the calorie information, claiming such a rule was a violation of free speech.

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The city requires that restaurants post caloric information on menus and menu boards in the same font and format used to display the name or price of the menu item.

Judge Holwell, noting that 56.1 percent of New York City's population was overweight or obese and that restaurants play an increasingly large role in an individual's diet, found that the city's insistence on prominent caloric information "is entirely consistent with First Amendment interest."

Chuck Hunt, the association's executive vice president, said: "Of course, we're disappointed in the ruling."

He said it was likely the association would appeal.

"Today's decision is a victory which will give New Yorkers the calorie information they need -- where they need it -- to make informed, healthier choices," said the city's health commissioner, Thomas Frieden.

The regulation "could prevent at least 150,000 New Yorkers from becoming obese and prevent at least 30,000 New Yorkers from developing diabetes and other health concerns over the next five years," he added.

(Reporting by Leslie Gevirtz; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Lisa Von Ahn)

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