New York State Restaurant Ass’n v. New York Department of Health

In 2007, a fast-food industry group filed two lawsuits challenging a New York City regulation requiring fast-food restaurants to post calorie information on their menus. The industry argued that the regulation was preempted by federal law and that it violated the First Amendment. In both cases, Public Citizen filed amicus briefs in support of the regulation, arguing that it was not preempted because it fills a regulatory gap that Congress intentionally left open to states when it passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) in 1990. The NLEA requires nutrition labeling on packaged food but exempts restaurants.

In the first lawsuit, the district court ruled that the city’s calorie rule was preempted by federal law because it applied only to restaurants that already made nutrition information public. The judge also ruled, however, that the city was free to require fast food restaurants to disclose calorie counts if it redrafted its rule to apply to all chain restaurants.

In the second lawsuit, the court, agreeing with our arguments against the restaurant industry’s constitutional challenges, rule din favor of the City. The industry appealed to the Second Circuit. We filed an amicus brief supporting affirmance, and the court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision.

Our amicus briefs were filed om behalf individuals including then-Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), the NLEA’s chief sponsor; David Kessler, MD, Commissioner of the FDA at the time the NLEA was implemented; and organizations including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Diabetes Association, among others.