There is a trenchant column in today's NY Daily News by Sheila Cohen-Weiss, the director of nutritional policy for the National Restaurant Association. The editorial highlights the shortcomings of the shortsighted rule, passed last December by the Board of Health, that would require chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus and menu boards. It also underscores just how dangerous it is for the City Council to allow an unelected body to, in effect, act as a legislator in matters of public health.
The danger lies in the fact that the Board of Health, acting as a beard for the Department and the commissioner, is simply stone ignorant about how food businesses are run. and given this lack of basic knowledge, are simply not equipped to make policy that would impact the viability of this vital economic sector.
If only that was all the healthocracy was ignorant of. In the case of menu labeling the folks on the public health beat also are ignorant of the scientific analysis in the area of calorie posting that, in Cohen-Weiss' words finds "no definitive research data to support the public health benefits of posting calorie content on menus..."
Which is why we are delighted that City Council Health Chair, Joel Rivera, will be introducing his modification of the Board's rule at the Stated Council meeting next Wednesday. This Intro will allow for the chains that are currently providing nutritional information to their customers to continue to do so; but in a more reasonable manner that is congruent with their successful business models. There is no reason why the health of New Yorkers and the health of New York's businesses have to be mutually exclusive.