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NYC pushes again to get calories on menus

/ Source: The Associated Press

Hoping the fat-filled truth about certain fast-food items will shock New Yorkers into eating healthier, city officials are reviving a plan to force chains to post calorie counts for their foods right on the menu.

The city Board of Health planned to vote Tuesday for a second time on the requirement for major fast-food chains, which make up about 10 percent of the city’s restaurants. A federal judge struck it down in September, but indicated that the rule would be acceptable if it were expanded to include more restaurants.

If the measure is approved, any large fast-food chain would have to list calorie counts prominently on their menu boards. Several chains, like McDonald’s and Burger King, have the information available, but don’t list it on the menu boards that customers read before ordering.

City officials hope the rule would curb obesity by making people aware of the thousands of calories that can be packed into some of the meals. Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said Monday he hoped the chains would also respond by offering healthier options.

“I don’t think we’re going to see the 2,700-calorie appetizers that we see now,” Frieden said.

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 King County in Washington, which includes Seattle, have considered similar bills.

The new regulation would take effect March 31.

The Board of Health first passed a similar rule last year. It only applied to establishments that had already volunteered to post nutritional information about their products.

But a federal judge struck it down in September, indicating the rule would be acceptable if it were expanded to include the restaurants that had volunteered the calorie data as well as those that had not.

The new policy would apply to any chain that operates at least 15 separate establishments, including those that don’t currently have any information on calories. Those chains would include International House of Pancakes and Hale & Hearty Soups, city officials said.

Messages left with the New York Restaurant Association, which sued last year over the law, weren’t immediately returned Monday.

Fast-food companies have said the calorie counts would clutter menus and irritate customers who didn’t necessarily want to be confronted with the information.