Friday, September 11, 2015

Warning! High Salt Content

Written by Stephen Kenney

On Wednesday, September 9, 2015, the New York City Board of Health voted unanimously to require that chain eateries put a warning label on menu items that have more than the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium.  That is the equivalent of about a teaspoon.   The high salt content items will have to be marked with a saltshaker encased in a black triangle.  

The regulation was published in the City Record on June 23, 2015.  The vendor is also required to post a warning that says: “Warning (picture of salt symbol) indicates that the sodium (salt) content of this item is higher than the total daily recommended limit (2300 mg).  High sodium intake can increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease and stroke.”   The warning must be posted at a point of purchase in the restaurant or in other words “any place where a customer may order food within an establishment.

The requirement is set to take effect on December 1.  Violators would be punished by a $200 fine which would be enforced by city health inspectors.  Restaurants along with some movie theaters and ballparks would be required to comply with the warning if the establishment is “part of a chain with 15 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items.”

The Board of Health reasoned that this label was necessary because it believes that sodium is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease.  The notice of adoption of the regulations also cites studies that purport that 95% of Americans consume more than the recommended daily limit of sodium and that restaurant food is a primary source of sodium.  The New York Board of Health also referenced studies that argued that consumers typically underestimate the sodium content of restaurant food and foods that are often considered healthy, such as salads, often have high salt content. 

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