NEW YORK — The U.S. government has joined a food fight between New York City and a national group opposing new food labelling regulations for chain grocery and convenience stores.
The Department of Justice filed legal papers this week on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration, asking a judge to block the city from enforcing a law requiring some stores serving prepared foods to post calorie information where the foods are sold.
“FDA intends to utilize the authority given to it by Congress to craft uniform national standards for food labelling,” said agency spokeswoman Jennifer Corbett Dooren.
The National Association of Convenience Stores is challenging the rules in court, arguing that provisions of President Barack Obama’s health care bill called for national standards and that enforcement by local municipalities violates that law.
The FDA and New York City have similar calorie labelling requirements, but the FDA said earlier this year it would delay implementation until May 2018.
The New York City Health Department has said it plans to begin enforcement of its requirements on the chain grocery and convenience stores beginning next Monday.
“We are disappointed that the Food and Drug Administration has filed (court documents) opposing the city’s enforcement of its calorie labelling requirements,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement.
New York City has required chain restaurants to provide information about calories on menus for nearly a decade, but decided earlier this year to expand the policy.
“Poor nutrition is fuelling an epidemic of chronic diseases, and this basic information should be accessible and transparent to all,” Bassett said.
Despite the legal challenge from the convenience store trade group, many pizza chains, convenience stores and grocers have already taken steps to comply with the FDA rules that go into effect next year.
It applies to chains with 20 or more locations.
The National Association of Convenience Stores says many convenience stores, which are selling more prepared foods than ever, don’t want to roll out the information until they’re certain the rule is final.