Federal Appeals Court Upholds Validity of NYC Menu Board Ordinance
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court ruling that rejected the restaurant industry’s preemption and First Amendment challenge to New York City’s health code provision mandating that certain restaurant chains post calorie information on their menu boards. New York State Rest. Ass’n v. NYC Bd. of Health, No. 08-1892 (2d Cir., decided February 17, 2009). The rule has been in effect since July 2008 and applies to restaurants that are part of chains with at least 15 outlets nationwide. The New York State Restaurant Association contended that the rule was preempted by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act and infringed its members constitutional rights by compelling speech.
According to the court, “In requiring chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus, New York City merely stepped into a sphere that Congress intentionally left open to state and local governments. Furthermore, although the restaurants are protected by the Constitution when they engage in commercial speech, the First Amendment is not violated, where as here, the law in question mandates a simple factual disclosure of caloric information and is reasonably related to New York City’s goals of combating obesity.” Additional information about the lower court’s ruling appear in issue 257 of this Update. See FindLaw.com, February 17, 2009.