NYC Board Of Health Approves Sodium Warning Labels For Extra Salty Menu Items

Like your food salty? If you live in New York City, you’ll be reminded exactly how salty your next meal is starting Dec. 1, when chain restaurants will have to include a salt shaker symbol on menu items that exceed the recommended daily intake of sodium.

The city’s Board of Health unanimously approved black-and-white sodium warning labels for any menu items that have more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, or about a teaspoon’s worth, reports CBS New York. This makes NYC the first city in the country with such a requirement, which is aimed at improving the health of the city’s residents.

Here’s what the labels will look like:

On average, Americans consume about 3,400 mg of salt per day, with only about 10% of the population meeting the 2,300 mg daily recommendation. Though we’re eating most of our salt in processed and restaurant food, many people might not realize how much salt is in each dish — for example, Applebee’s Chicken Fajitas Rollup clocks in at 3,600 mg of sodium; Chili’s Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad has 3,470 mg and Olive Garden’s Tour of Italy entrée packs in 3,830 mg of salt per serving.

The motive here isn’t to say “no” to salt, NYC officials say, but more “know” how much salt you’re eating. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration says the warning label is part of a strategy to lower the city’s premature mortality rate by 25% by 2040.

“Excess sodium intake is dangerous and linked to increased blood pressure and risk of heart disease and stroke,” a spokeswoman from de Blasio’s office said last month. “With this warning label, we can increase awareness about the risks.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest applauded NYC’s move, saying salty chain restaurant meals “are turning Americans’ hearts and brains into ticking time bombs—gradually raising our risks of suffering a heart attack or stroke.”

“Today’s action by the New York City Board of Health will help consumers avoid some of the riskiest chain-restaurant offerings,” CSPI President Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement.

The salt industry is fighting back, predictably: the Salt Institute, a trade group for salt producers, says the measure is based on “incorrect government targets” that have been called into question by recent research.

“This is another example of the government creating policy based on outdated, incorrect sodium guidelines that have been refuted by 10 years of research,” Lori Roman, President of the Salt Institute, said in a statement Wednesday before the vote. “Research shows Americans already eat within the safe range of sodium consumption and population-wide sodium reduction strategies are unnecessary and could be harmful.”

Restaurant owners weren’t so pleased with the idea either, saying that new federal menu labeling guidelines will be taking effect in 2016, which could require them to revamp their menus twice.

“The establishments that fall under these new regulations will be forced to construct costly new menu boards in consecutive years,” Melissa Fleischut, President and CEO of the NYS Restaurant Association, said in the statement. “This is just the latest in a long litany of superfluous hoops that restaurants here in New York must jump through. Every one of these cumbersome new laws makes it tougher and tougher for restaurants to find success.”

NYC Board Of Health Approves Menu Sodium Warnings [CBS Local]