The NYC Hospitality Alliance submitted the following testimony in opposition to legislation introduced in City Council that would require certain restaurants to post an icon and a warning message about the ills of consuming sugar next to every menu item with more than 12 grams of added sugar.
City requirements now touch every minute aspect of our restaurants, and the content of menus appears to be the latest target of overregulation. From calorie counts and salt-shaker logos to prohibitions on disclosing administrative surcharges, and now sugar icons, our menus are starting to feel like City-owned property.
Thanks to laudable public education efforts spearheaded by the administration, diners in 2019 are well-aware of the ills of added sugar. A warning label next to every dessert item is not necessary to communicate that desserts are sweet. We are particularly distressed that the Council is considering yet another menu mandate without any data showing the existing calorie and salt mandates have been effective. To the extent there is limited data, it points to the opposite conclusion, that menu mandates do not impact diners’ behavior.
Like most of the Council’s well-intentioned menu and signage requirements, restaurant owners know what the true impact of this legislation will be: more summonses and more fines. Restaurant owners need the City to take a break with mandate after mandate, and fine after fine. We are disappointed to see that the current version of the bill does not even contemplate an initial educational period, or a warning with opportunity to cure for first-time violations.
If the Council does move ahead with this proposal, we urge Members to at least consider less-disruptive alternatives to a City-mandated logo next to every single menu item that meets the added sugar threshold. For example, an asterisk next to the menu item with a single warning located elsewhere would be far less intrusive.
Finally, it is important for the Council to remember that foodservice is a creative and artistic endeavor. Members of New York City’s world-renowned restaurant industry are some of the brightest stars of the city’s creative community. Menus are key expressive elements in communicating the restaurant’s concept, focus, and passion. The City’s regulatory attitude of late, which treats menus as cookie-cutter utilitarian tools whose only purpose is to uniformly advance the Health Department’s agenda, fails to grasp the creative and expressive importance of menus to restaurants. Yesterday was calorie disclosures and salt logos, today is sugar icons, and at this rate, tomorrow will bring ten more summons-driving menu mandates of questionable efficacy. Enough is enough.
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