National Restaurant Association Statement on the Trans Fat Ban and Menu Labeling Mandate in New York City

(Washington, DC) The National Restaurant Association today issued the following statement regarding the New York City Board of Health’s vote to institute a ban on trans fat oils and shortenings in restaurants and to institute mandatory menu labeling:

“Today’s decision by the Board of Health shows an ignorance of the challenges New York’s 24,000 restaurants will face in trying to eliminate trans fat and may well take a step backward for public health.

“The Board of Health and the National Restaurant Association have the same goal – to move away from trans fat in oils and products consumed in restaurants, and many restaurants have recently made announcements that they’re moving away from using trans fat. However, the challenges and unintended consequences of the proposal to ban trans fat in the time-span of six to eighteen months in New York City is unworkable.

“This is a farm-to-table issue. It takes time to develop, plant, grow, harvest and process new alternative crops and to test new oils. Because of this supply problem, with such a limited timetable, many of the city’s restaurateurs will have no choice but to switch to oils high in unhealthful saturated fats, a move opposed by health advocacy groups.

“The National Restaurant Association has serious concerns about the Board of Health’s ability to educate restaurants on this issue, evidenced by the lack of communication to New York’s restaurateurs about the voluntary program announced last year.

“In addition, there are serious legal concerns about a municipal health agency banning a product or ingredient the Food and Drug Administration has already approved.

“Regarding the Board’s menu labeling proposal, the proposal is set up to hurt the exact restaurants which have been going above and beyond to provide nutrition information to customers. Instead of working with 90% of local restaurants to educate consumers about nutrition, this proposal penalizes the 10% of restaurants that already provide nutrition information. It will actually discourage restaurants from informing customers about the nutritional content of their food.

“A majority of national chain restaurants are already providing nutrition information, and they know how to reach and educate their customers most effectively. The Board’s proposal demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the restaurant industry, and it’s labeling proposal will do more harm than good.

“Adding caloric information to menus and menu boards – with so many combination options – will make many menus extremely cluttered and confusing to customers.

“The National Restaurant Association has attempted to work with the New York City Board of Health, but the Board seems determined to work against the industry. Both proposals are examples of well-intentioned, misguided social engineering. We look forward to working with the City of New York and other municipalities to educate them that quick fix solutions to complex problems will not be effective. The industry is looking for practical, long-term solutions that won’t disrupt the dining experiences of our customers or hurt New York City’s restaurateurs.”

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