Money & Business

Mixed Support for New York City’s New Sodium Warning

By / Dec 3, 2015

When New York City became the first place in the country to require chain restaurants to post a warning next to high-sodium items, a number of associations came out both for and against the new rule.

On December 1, New York City became the first city in the U.S. to require [PDF] chain restaurants with at least 15 locations nationwide to post a salt-shaker warning label next to menu items with high levels of sodium―2,300 mg or more. But if the National Restaurant Association gets its way, the new warning labels won’t be around for long. NRA announced Tuesday it will file a suit to stop the salt warning requirement this week, reasoning the label is “burdensome, costly and unnecessary.”

“The Department of Health thinks it is targeting corporate chains, but in reality [it] is dealing yet another blow to many of New York’s small businesses that have been working and continue to work hard to provide nutritional access to their customers,” NRA said in a statement. “Consumers should have the same access to nutrition information from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon.”

Americans consume nearly 3,500 mg of sodium each day, “which is more than 1,000 mg more than any public health group recommends,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said. AHA’s Senior Director of Government Relations Robin Vitale added the group is “thrilled” with the health department’s sodium reduction initiative [PDF], as did the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The groups noted that a high sodium intake has been linked to illnesses like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. In a statement, CSPI President Michael Jacobson called for all local health departments across the U.S. to require a similar sodium label.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said the warnings are “needed in restaurants because the majority of sodium in our diet is not coming from what we decide to add with the salt shaker at the table, it’s already in the food when we buy it.” Bassett said the “icons will help New Yorkers make more informed choices when dining out.”

NRA and the Salt Institute disagree and have called the initiative “misguided,” saying that the health board is only imposing the view that high levels of sodium negatively affect a person’s health and are ignoring recent research that may prove otherwise.

“This is another example of the government creating policy based on outdated, incorrect sodium guidelines that have been refuted by ten years of research,” said Salt Institute President Lori Roman. “Research shows Americans already eat within the safe range of sodium consumption and population-wide sodium reduction strategies are unnecessary and could be harmful,” she said.

While the rule went into effect this week, $200 fines for noncompliance won’t be issued until March 1. However, some restaurants have already adopted the sodium warning. Zane Tankel, CEO of Apple-Metro, owner of Applebee’s restaurants in New York City, said menus in his restaurants have already been revised to include the warning because he wants guests “to have as much information as needed to make informed decisions when dining in our restaurants.”

Katie Rucke

Katie Rucke is former Associate Editor for Associations Now. More »

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