updated 3/2/2007 8:13:50 PM ET 2007-03-03T01:13:50

At least three national fast-food chains have made it harder for New Yorkers to learn the calorie content of their hamburgers, fries and subs. Wendy's, White Castle and Quiznos sandwich shops were among a handful of eateries that yanked nutritional information from some restaurants or their Web sites this week in an attempt to avoid having to post the same info on menus in New York.

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The move was a reaction to a new regulation that will make the city the first in the country to require eateries to list calorie counts in the most prominent place possible: on their brightly-lit menu boards, right next to the price.

In an attempt to make the rule apply only to big, national fast-food chains, health officials decreed that the regulation would apply only to restaurants that were already making calorie information available voluntarily.

Restaurants complained, saying the rule would clutter menu boards with health data already available elsewhere, and as the March 1 deadline approached, a few decided to act.

Taking action
Wendy's International Inc. pulled all information on calories from posters and fliers at its New York eateries. Quiznos and White Castle deactivated the pages on their Web site that offered all types of nutritional information.

"We fully support the intent of this regulation," Wendy's said in a statement on its Web site. "However, since most of our food is made-to-order, there isn't enough room on our existing menu boards to comply with the regulation."

White Castle executives did not return phone calls Friday, but the company's marketing director, Jamie Richardson, told The New York Sun the company removed nutritional posters and brochures from New York restaurants as a temporary defensive measure.

"We wanted to allow ourselves as much flexibility as possible and ultimately work through a solution that is as customer-friendly as possible," Richardson said.

Quiznos said in a statement that its change was also temporary, pending the company's development of a "long-term nutritional information strategy."

"Quiznos recognizes that nutrition is an important topic in our health-conscious society and that the recent New York City Board of Health amendments point to a growing trend that we need to address," the company said.

The changes brought a tart response from Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden.

"If some restaurants stop displaying calorie information to avoid making it useful to customers, we should wonder what they're so ashamed of," he said in a statement.

Does rule go too far?
Part of a vigorous city campaign for healthier eating, the calorie-disclosure requirement takes effect July 1 for restaurants that serve standardized portion sizes. It is expected to affect about 1 in 10 of the city's restaurants.

The city Board of Health approved it in December while also banning restaurants from using artificial trans fats.

Some City Council members have complained that the calorie rule goes too far.

Councilman Joel Rivera proposed legislation this week that would require restaurants to put nutritional information on a poster or some other means, but reverse the requirement that it go on menus.

He criticized restaurants for eliminating nutritional data, but said they were only reacting to a "misguided" regulation.

In the meantime, Wendy's said it had replaced its old nutritional information posters with new ones that still provide nutritional information on fats, carbohydrates and sugars, but leave out calorie counts.

New Yorkers who still want the full scoop on Wendy's burgers can check the company's Web site, which still had the info up Friday: 420 calories for a classic single, and a gut-busting 970 for a triple with cheese.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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