updated 4/16/2008 1:14:24 PM ET 2008-04-16T17:14:24

A federal judge on Wednesday upheld a city regulation requiring calories to be posted on the menu boards of some chain restaurants, calling the rule a reasonable approach to health officials’ goal of reducing obesity.

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The judge turned back a challenge from the New York State Restaurant Association, a voice for the food service industry.

“It seems reasonable to expect that some consumers will use the information disclosed ... to select lower calorie meals ... and these choices will lead to a lower incidence of obesity,” U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell said.

New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene believes the regulation, which takes effect Monday, will prevent 130,000 New Yorkers from becoming obese and will stop another 30,000 from developing diabetes over the next five years.

“We just want people to have the information available to them to make healthful decisions,” said health department spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti.

The new rule applies to restaurants in the city that are part of chains with at least 15 outlets across the country. That includes fast-food places like McDonald’s and such sit-down chains such as Olive Garden and T.G.I. Friday’s.

The city Board of Health voted unanimously in January to approve the regulation, a new version of a rule that had been struck down by a judge last year after a challenge from the restaurant association.

“We don’t object to people doing it voluntarily,” restaurant association spokesman Chuck Hunt said Wednesday in an interview before the ruling was released. “Our problem was the government agency forcing them to do it. We think restaurants should be able to determine from their customers how they want to get the information.”

It was not immediately clear whether the association would appeal.

Goal to reduce obesity
Some restaurants including Starbucks and Chipotle have already started to post calories on menus. The health department said it will not start fining restaurants until June 3.

New York City, which banned trans-fat-laden cooking oils from all restaurants last year, is believed to be the first U.S. city to enact a regulation requiring calories on menus.

Since then, California lawmakers and those in King County in Washington, which includes Seattle, have considered similar bills.

A federal judge has turned aside a challenge from New York restaurants and upheld the city’s rules requiring calories to be posted on some menus.

Judge Richard Holwell says in a ruling Wednesday that the law is a reasonable approach to the city’s goal of reducing obesity.

The new law takes effect on April 21 and applies to restaurants with more than 15 outlets across the country.

That includes fast-food places like McDonald’s and such sit-down chains as Olive Garden and T.G.I. Friday’s. Some restaurants including Starbucks and Chipotle have already started to post calories on menus.

The New York State Restaurant Association had challenged the law.

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