Council bill would require restaurant warnings for sugar and carbs
Restaurants in New York City could soon be forced to warn consumers about the dangers certain foods pose to diabetics and pre-diabetics.
Councilwoman Inez Barron, a Democrat from Brooklyn, will introduce legislation on Wednesday that requires the city’s health department to create a poster detailing the “risks of excessive sugar and other carbohydrate intake for diabetic and pre-diabetic individuals.”
“We have an obligation to inform people,” Barron said. "Just as we know that when people see calorie counts they have the ability to make an informed decision, this has a similar intent."
The city's health department is currently reviewing the bill, said Christopher Miller, a spokesman.
"As diabetes is a growing concern in New York City, especially in communities of color, Council Member Barron’s concern is admirable," Miller said in an email.
More than one-in-five New Yorkers are pre-diabetic, according to the health department, and more than 700,000 are estimated to have diabetes.
The move comes amid a broader fight between the National Restaurant Association and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration over nutritional warnings.
The city’s Board of Health enacted a rule last year that required chain restaurants to post a symbol — a salt shaker inside a triangle — next to food items that contain more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium. They must post a warning that says, "[the] content of this item is higher than the total daily recommended limit (2300 mg)."
The Board of Health proposed a $200 penalty for violating the rule.
The sodium mandate has been stayed pending a ruling by the appellate court.
Barron’s bill comes with a $500 penalty and the posters would be required in all restaurants.
Were the legislation to become law, it would almost certainly stand on firmer legal ground than the sodium mandate, as there would be no question over whether the agency had statutory authority.
Further, the National Restaurant Association has argued that the sodium rule is arbitrary because it applies only to chain restaurants. Barron’s bill applies to all food-service establishments.
But the legislation is likely to face stiff opposition from the restaurant industry, which has traditionally opposed these types of warnings.
"New York City has changed nanny state from a noun to a verb," said Christin Fernandez, a spokeswoman for the restaurant association. "This is 'nanny stating' at its very worst. The City has taken it upon itself to endlessly target the restaurant and foodservice industry with mandates that offer no solution to underlying health problems. This is just another attempt to showcase misleading information that attempts to scare people about products that are perfectly safe in moderation and can be enjoyed as part of a balanced lifestyle. A poster on a wall is no way to improve public health."
Many of the bill's details, including what the poster would look like and the amount of sugar and carbohydrates that would be deemed excessive, would be left up to the city's health department.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance come from added sugars. This is no more than 100 calories per day for most American women and no more than 150 per day for men.
"The pending proposal reflects New York’s continued efforts to better educate and inform consumers of the dangers hidden on restaurant menus," said Robin Vitale, a senior director of government relations with the American Heart Association.
Read the bill here: http://politi.co/21Wte5m