The National Restaurant Association has filed suit against New York City’s Board of Health over its decision to require chain restaurants with at least 15 stores to post sodium labeling next to menu items or combination meals exceeding 2,300 milligrams of sodium.
The suit was filed Dec. 3, in the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The city’s sodium-labeling mandate took effect Dec. 1, and fines for noncompliance are expected to begin March 1, 2016.
The NRA said it filed the lawsuit because the board of health lacks authority to enact such a mandate. Under New York State law, only the City Council has the right to impose mandates like this. The NRA also said the regulation is “arbitrary and capricious” and “filled with irrational exclusions and nonsensical loopholes.”
“Once again, the board has acted without any legislative guidance and improperly sidestepped the people’s representatives on the City Council,” said Angelo Amador, the Association’s regulatory counsel. “Its actions, as with the beverage ban before it, are arbitrary in their scope, reach and application.”
In June 2014, the NRA won a lawsuit against the city’s board of health when the New York Court of Appeals struck down the agency’s efforts to ban the sale of sugar-sweetened drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants. The appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the ban was arbitrary and held restaurateurs to a different standard than their competitors, including grocery and convenience stores.
Joan McGlockton, the NRA’s vice president of food policy and industry relations, said that the board of health once again is trying to create mandates where it doesn’t have the authority to do so. She said the regulation also undermines the FDA’s federal menu-labeling law set to take effect in December 2016. That law will require chain restaurants to provide nutrition information on request, including sodium content.
“As an Association, we advocated for a national menu-labeling standard on behalf of restaurants across the country to provide consumers with access to uniform nutrition information,” she said. “The Board of Health is using exclusions and loopholes to undo that uniformity on a local level and has acted outside of its scope. The restaurant industry continues its commitment to developing and offering lower-sodium options for consumers.”