April 15, 2010
Minneapolis City Council Will Allow Street Vendors
Last week, the City of Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that will allow for a limited number of street food vendors, in a limited area of downtown Minneapolis. The amended ordinance contains a number of restrictions that would be placed on street food vendors.
At a hearing in March, according to the Twin Cites Daily Planet, there was discussion about who could become a street vendor:
. . . Some discussion at the meeting involved whether a business owner had to already own a restaurant or bar to become a street vendor. The currently proposed wording says that while a business owner could have any type of food service license, they would need to do all preparing and storing of food in a commercially licensed kitchen. That stipulation would cut out smaller businesses that don't have an established brick and mortar business.
The ordinance as originally proposed would only have allowed food and beverages to be stored and prepared in a commercially licensed kitchen, but this restriction was not part of the final ordinance.
According to the Minneapolis Downtown Journal,
Under the new rules, anybody with a licensed kitchen or a license to use a commons kitchen can apply for a street-vending permit. Vendors will be assigned spots Downtown and be able to sell any kind of food.
Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Nicolas Allyn for preparing the original version of this post! (Professor Donna M. Byrne edited the final version because by the time she got around to posting it,the news had changed.)
New Health Care Legislation Affects Restaurants' Nutritional Information Requirements
The recently passed health care legislation includes a new requirement regarding nutritional information for fast food items. The new requirements come as a victory for people who have been advocating more accountability for restaurants who serve fast food. According to an ABC News article:
. . . The new requirement is buried deep inside the health care reform that President Obama just signed into law. . .It requires all dining chains with 20 outlets or more to put calorie counts on their menus.
These developments have been championed by many, including Iowa Senator Tom Harkin who voted for the bill and is quoted in the article:
. . . As more and more consumer become aware of choices, they will start making the healthy choice. . .more and more people are going to start eating salads at McDonalds than ever before.
Critics say that although restaurants with less than 20 outlets are exempt from the rule, it is a scary sign that the federal government is moving closer and closer to policing small restaurant operations. According to Didier Durand, chef and head of an organization of independent restaurants aimed at keeping ‘police out of the kitchen’:
. . . Members [of Durand’s organization] are fed up with encroaching government regulation. . . “They want to police our kitchen, I want the police on the streets, Durand said. “In my kitchen, I put a pinch of that, a little of this, just never the same, so I think that will never be accurate.”
Although these concerns are substantial and illustrate a fear of too much government interference in restaurant operations, studies have shown that nutrition requirements on restaurant food can lead to consumers choosing healthier items. According to a Stanford University Study :
. . . We find that mandatory calorie posting does influence consumer behavior at Starbucks, causing average calories per transaction to decrease by 6% (from 247 to 232 calories per transaction). Almost all of the effect is related to food purchase as opposed to beverage purchase. . . There is evidence that calorie posting may have caused some consumers to substitute away from Dunkin Donuts (a large competitor) towards Starbucks.
Under the newly enacted legislation, there are specific requirements that must be followed by the restaurant with the hope bringing more knowledge to consumers:
. . . The restaurant or similar retail food establishment shall disclose. . .a nutrient content statement. . .the number of calories as usually prepared. . .and a succinct statement concerning suggested daily caloric intake. H.R.3962 "Affordable Health Care for American Act, page 1511.
Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Nathan Midolo for preparing this post. Mr. Midolo is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.
February 03, 2010
Menu Labeling Updates: New Research Shows that Menu Labeling is Curbing Consumers’ Caloric Intake – and also Leading Major Restaurant Chains to Offer Healthier Menu Options
This is a guest post by Kate Armstrong, Staff Attorney, Public Health Law Center, William Mitchell College of Law.
According to two recent studies, nutrition labeling on menus in chain restaurants is leading consumers to make lower-calorie menu selections for themselves and for their children.
The first study, released in early January 2010, was conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The Stanford study, Calorie Posting in Chain Restaurants, focused on the impact of mandatory calorie posting on consumers’ purchasing decisions using sales data from Starbucks stores in New York City, where calorie labeling has been required by city regulation since April 2008. It found that Starbucks consumers began switching to lower-calorie food options after menu labeling was required, resulting in average calories per transaction falling by six percent (6%).
From an Atlantic article about the Stanford study (which also references two complementary studies conducted by the NYC health department and researchers at Yale University):
The Stanford study, which compared data from Starbucks stores in New York City against stores in Boston and Philadelphia, where calorie-labeling laws are going into effect (they did on January 1 in Philadelphia, and will this November in Boston) is the first widely noted sign that people do change their ordering behavior when they see calorie counts—though not the first, as New York City health department preliminary studies, and a new study at Yale, published last month, are showing. Starbucks customers reduced calories in their food (but not their drink) orders by 6 percent overall and, more dramatically, by 26 percent if they had previously been ordering high-calorie Starbucks items. Starbucks profits didn't decrease—an answer to initial fears from food companies over labeling laws. But, unreassuringly for fast-food chains, sales at Starbucks stores within 100 meters of Dunkin Donuts stores increased by an average of three percent.
The second study, published in the January 25, 2010, online version of Pediatrics, was conducted by researchers at the University of Washington and the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. The researchers used McDonald’s menus and looked at how parents reacted to nutritional information when making fast food selections for their children. They found that when nutritional information is available on fast food restaurant menus, parents are more apt to pick lower-calorie foods for their children.
From a BusinessWeek article on the study, quoting lead researcher Dr. Pooja Tandon:
"When parents are provided with calorie information they chose about 100 calories less [per meal] for their 3- to 6-year-old child compared to parents who didn't have that information," said lead researcher Dr. Pooja Tandon, a graduate fellow in the department of general pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Finally, the Wall Street Journal notes that local and state menu labeling legislation is leading several national restaurant chains to reformulate existing menu items to make them healthier, and to introduce new, lower-calorie menu options. While national restaurant chains say that product reformulation is driven by customer demand for healthier options, it is also likely motivated by pending national menu labeling legislation:
The restaurant chains say the low-calorie shift was driven by customer demand rather than impending legislation. But providing calorie counts now will help them get ahead of a proposed federal law calling for chains with 20 or more restaurants to post calorie information on menus and menu boards. The proposed menu labeling requirements are part of health care legislation being debated in Congress.
Click here for the proposed national menu labeling legislation (see Section 4205, Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants) contained within the Senate health care reform bill, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed in the Senate on December 24, 2009.
Although national menu labeling legislation is packaged within the larger – and now up-in-the-air health care reform bill – it is still anticipated to pass this year, whether as part of national health care reform or as stand-alone legislation.
Post by Donna M. Byrne, Professor of Law, William Mitchell College of Law
August 18, 2009
Fly in the Salad Lawsuit
It was a defamation lawsuit against a man who said there were flies. From the Chicago Tribune:
An alleged fly in a salad has turned out to be grounds for a lawsuit in Kane County. And according to the suit, the reputation of a restaurant named for Walter Payton is at stake.
The owners of Walter Payton's Roundhouse in Aurora last week sued for defamation an Aurora man whose job is to promote economic development in the city. The official allegedly sent out a mass e-mail warning people to stay away from the popular restaurant because of a supposed problem with flies.
And from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog:
We suppose lawsuits have been fought over smaller pieces of evidence, we don’t come across them that often. At issue in a lawsuit reported by the Chicago Tribune on Monday: whether a teensy creature wound up in the salad of patron at a restaurant in Aurora, Ill.
According to the story, the assistant director of the Aurora Economic Development Commission, Manuel Maysonet, recently dined at a Walter Payton’ Roundhouse restaurant in Aurora — ordering a chopped salad with barbecue sauce. Maysonet allegedly sent the salad back, complaining there was a fly in it.
September 21, 2008
Mislabeled restaurant fish
Last night I went out for dinner with some bicycling buddies. I ordered some sort of white fish. I don't remember what kind of fish it was supposed to be. It was good, but who knows what it really was? Sergei Lemberg's LemonJustice Blog has a post about a teen science project that analyzed restaurant fish and found it often to be mislabeled.
When we go out to a restaurant and peruse the menu, it’s a reasonable assumption that we’ll be served the dish that we order. Likewise, when we’re doing our grocery shopping, there’s no reason to believe that the products we buy are misrepresented. Until now, that is.
February 26, 2008
Burger King trans fat case remanded to D. C. Superior Court
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a lawsuit against Burger King in May 2007 "because it is the only one of the three top burger chains not to promise to phase out its use of partially hydrogenated frying oil." CSPI sued in Superior Court for the District of Columbia, but Burger King had the case removed to federal court.
This week the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted CSPI's motion to remand the case back to Superior Court. The federal court found that CSPI did not have standing to bring the case in federal court because it did not allege that it had "suffered an injury in fact sufficient to meet the constitutional standing requirements of Article III."
Burger King had moved to dismiss the case, arguing that remand would be futile because the Superior Court will inevitably also find that CSPI lacks standing, but the DC Circuit has not adopted this "futility exception" (recognized by some circuits but not DC).
According to CSPI,
Wendy’s and McDonald’s are each phasing out their use of partially hydrogenated oil. KFC stopped using it for deep-frying in 2007 after CSPI sued the company, though it still uses it in biscuits and pot pies. Fried foods from Burger King are alarmingly high in trans fat, according to CSPI. A regular-size order of Chicken Tenders with a large order of French fries has 8 grams of trans—more than someone should consume in four days.
February 07, 2008
Mississippi Obesity Bill dropped -- dies in committee
The bill, whose authors knew it had little chance of passage, attracted media attention from all over the world. Sponsors, including Rep. John Read, R-Gautier, said they wanted to draw attention to the obesity epidemic that plagues the state.
"Anybody with any sense knows it's not going to happen, not going to pass," Read told the Sun Herald recently. "Mississippi has been ranked the most obese state in the nation. With all the attention paid to tobacco problems, this was to shed some light on another major problem. This has been at least getting the dialogue going."
And here I thought we were supposed to be serious about legislation.
January 18, 2008
Diner finds purple pearl in $10 plate of steamed clams
From wcbstv.com: (Click for video)
A $10 plate of clams served up the surprise of a lifetime for a Florida couple, a rare purple pearl.
George and Leslie Brock rarely order steamed clams, but on their last visit to a Lake Worth, Florida restaurant, they decided to be spontaneous and order seafood. Little did they know…
October 27, 2007
Study says Americans prefer junk food
From Science Daily:
Americans are less willing to pay more for healthy dishes, less knowledgeable about healthy menu items, and more likely to consider healthy items bland-tasting than they were three years ago, finds a Temple University analysis.
October 24, 2007
NY City Trying Again to Require Calorie Content
Last month a federal judge threw out the New york City regulation that would have required restaurants to provide calorie contents for their dishes. (See Judge Throws Out New York Rule Requiring Restaurants to Post Calories , New York Times, 9-12-07).
Now New York City is trying again. City Tries Again With Labeling Fast-Food Menus (NYT, 10-24-07). Exerpt:
The new regulation would apply to all restaurants with 15 outlets or more across the country, though it’s aimed squarely at the fast food industry. Many chains, like McDonald’s, Burger King and Starbucks, already provide calorie information on their Web sites, or on posters or tray liners available in their restaurants. But health officials say customers rarely see this information before deciding what to order.
A survey by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene this spring found that, excluding Subway restaurants, 97 percent of fast-food customers never saw any nutritional information before or after their purchase.
A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 27 and the Board of Health is expected to vote on the measure in January.
May 18, 2007
Burger King Sued Over Trans Fats
CSPI Says Burger King is Biggest Chain Without Firm Plans to Convert to Safer Alternatives to Partially Hydrogenated Oils
WASHINGTON—By using partially hydrogenated oil, Burger King is knowingly increasing its customers' risk of heart disease and early death, according to a lawsuit filed today by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. CSPI is asking a District of Columbia Superior Court judge to order the restaurant chain to stop using the deadly trans-fat-laden ingredient, or at least to require prominent warning notices on Burger King’s menu boards. According to CSPI, Burger King is the biggest restaurant chain that is not fully committed to getting rid of the artificial trans fat found in partially hydrogenated oil.
March 29, 2007
Humane Eggs and Ham
It seems the king is granting more clemency for animals in its supply chain -- Burger King (NYSE: BKC), that is. Like a growing number of companies, the fast-food giant said it plans to increase its focus on buying eggs and pork from cage-free and crate-free animals.
Burger King informed animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) of its intention through letters, which the organization provided to the Associated Press. The company wrote that it has started purchasing 10% of its pork from suppliers that don't use sow gestation crates. It also said it will start getting 2% of its eggs from cage-free hens. Burger King plans to double the percentage it purchases in both of these areas by the end of this year.
December 06, 2006
No more trans fats in NYC
Someone had to be first. New York City has approved its proposed ban on artificial trans fats in restaurant food. It is actually only a partial ban -- restaurant foods can still have less than a half a gram per serving, but the regulation is nevertheless significant.
In addition, restaurants that post food composition information anywhere must now provide it on the menu. The Calorie rule is explicitly intended to help combat obesity.
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene press release.
Parke Wilde's U.S. Food Policy Blog (because he does a nice job and is worth reading)
November 30, 2006
Cutting Salt in Kids' Diets Reduces Blood Pressure
A new study shows that reducing salt intake in children quickly lowers their blood pressure. If their blood pressure remains lower, those kids could experience lower rates of heart attacks and strokes as they age. But according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), makers of popular packaged and restaurant foods make it virtually impossible for children not to consume unhealthy levels of salt if they eat them.