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California Restaurant Association v. City and County of San Francisco

Topic(s): Preemption of Consumer Remedies
Date Of Involvement: 08/01/2008

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This was a lawsuit brought by the fast-food industry challenging San Francisco's labelling rule, which required chain restaurants to post the number of calories in its food on menu boards. The industry claimed that the rule was preempted by the federal Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA),which requires nutrition labeling of packaged foods but exempts restaurant food from those requirements. The industry also claimed that the law violated the First Amendment rights of the fast-food restaurants because it forced them to deliver a "message" with which they disagree.

Public Citizen filed an amicus brief in support of San Francisco, along with Congressman Henry Waxman, the chief sponsor of the NLEA in Congress, David Kessler, M.D., the FDA Commissioner at the time the NLEA was passed, Center for Science in the Public Interest, American College of Preventive Medicine, American Diabetes Association, California Center for Public Health Advocacy, Trust for America's Health, and professors of medicine, nutrition, and public health. We represented the same amici in a similar challenge to New York’s menu labeling rule, which resulted in a Second Circuit decision rejecting the industry’s arguments.

The San Francisco suit was withdrawn after California passed a statewide menu labeling law, preempting the city rule. That statewide law has since been preempted by a federal menu labeling law, passed as part of federal healthcare legislation.