Another food fight brewing: How to regulate restaurant menus

Another food fight brewing: How to regulate restaurant menus

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Just as a New York ban on large sugary drinks went down in flames Monday, the federal government is running into its own problems trying to regulate menus.

All this raises some tough questions about the role of government.  When it comes to sugary drinks or restaurant menus, how far can the government go in the name of health?

Keep the tap open -- just as it was about to happen, the ban is off.  A New York judge ruled that Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to ban large sugary drinks goes to far.

"We are going to appeal. We believe that the judge's decision was clearly in error, and that we are going to prevail on appeal," said Bloomberg.

The judge called the ban capricious because there were so many loopholes and carve-outs.  And while many health advocates back it, for many, it became a symbol of the nanny state.

One consumer stated, "Asking the government to protect us from large Cokes goes beyond what the government should do."

At the same time, another food fight is brewing at the federal level as the Food and Drug Administration tries to figure out how to implement new menu laws required under Obamacare.

The head of the FDA says his agency is having trouble coming up with a plan to force not just restaurants, but even grocery stores that sell prepared food to begin using nutrition labels. 

It's a move the food industry has been fighting.

"If you get it wrong, get this -- it's a federal crime and you could face jail time and thousands of dollars worth of fines," said Erik Lieberman of the Food Marketing Institute.

Grocery store owner Tom Heinen adds, "Well, I mean the supermarket industry is a business that's well known, that our net profit line and average and has been forever is one percent. so when you incur a significant cost there is no way that that doesn't get passed onto the customer in some form."

And when you look specifically at the menu issue, a lot of restaurants have already started doing this -- posting calorie counts next to items on their menus.

It gets more difficult when you deal with sit down restaurants and the new law will ultimately extend to vending machines.

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