Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fast Food Regs-Not so Fast

The lawsuit that was recently brought against the Department of Health's silly and expensive menu labeling regulation, has led the NYC DOH to postpone implementation of its rule until October. As the NY Times reports this morning; "The lawsuit, filed last week by the New York State Restaurant Association, contends that the regulation conflicts with federal nutritional labeling laws..."

And not only that. The requirement that the 2300 fast food outlets that had already been providing customers with nutritional information in the city should now post calorie contents of their offerings right up on their menus and menu boards, is not based on any public health evidence that the regulation would have any impact on healthier customer choice.

It is all part of a big brother mentality that believes that fast food customers aren't smart enough to make healthy choices without the government's heavy-handed intervention. In effect, as the suit contends, the health department is conducting a large-scale social science experiment to see if the posting of calories will lead to healthier eating. It is doing so, however, by forcing the fast food franchisees of the city-and only these operators (since the other 90% of the restaurants are exempt)-to spend tens of millions of dollars so the city can run its public health experiment.

All of which is sad, because Councilman Joel Rivera has introduced legislation that would allow for the collaboration between the industry and the city in developing better methods for getting nutritional information to fast food customers. The DOH and council leadership has resisted this compromise effort, the lawsuit is the inevitable result of the city's unwillingness to be reasonable. Now the resolution of the issue goes into the courts, instead of the political arena where it could have been resolved if the city had not been so intransigent.