Diners at a fast food restaurant in the Bronx became health department test subjects earlier this week. The evidence? Their receipts.
In an effort to measure the efficacy of its new menu-labeling rules, the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene gave patrons $2 MetroCards in exchange for their receipts on Monday. Last night, the department declined to disclose the name of the restaurant, as did restaurant industry officials. The department is attempting to find out whether people change their eating habits when calorie counts are listed.
The department's rule, which goes into effect July 1, requires restaurants to continue to post calorie counts next to food items on their menus if they did so on or after March 1.
"Because we are breaking new ground with this initiative, it is crucial that we evaluate our efforts so we can assess their impact," the department said in a statement.
The department said it would continue in coming months to collect baseline data from 200 randomly selected restaurants affected by the rule. The survey will be repeated after the rules go into effect.
But restaurant industry officials expressed consternation yesterday, doubting its legality and calling the research belated and unscientific.
"Why didn't they do this prior to proposing the menu labeling if they're not certain of its efficacy?" a restaurant industry lobbyist, Richard Lipsky, said.