Hold The Salt! New York City Introduces Mandatory Salt Warnings

Beginning this week, menus in chain restaurants in New York City must display a salt warning label, a tiny salt shaker in a black triangle, alerting customers that certain meals are high in sodium.

The city is the first to introduce salt labeling; they are doing it because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the city, taking almost 17,000 lives in 2013. And there is a direct link between sodium intake and high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

The measure was approved unanimously by the New York City Board of Health in September of this year, and only affects chain restaurants with more than 15 facilities across the U.S., as well as some concession stands at movie theaters and sports stadiums.

How Much Salt Is Too Much?

Most nutritionists recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams, or 0.08 ounces, of salt per day. That’s the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt; if any menu item contains more than this amount, it must display the salt shaker emblem seen above.

However, as The Guardian points out,

“The new menu labels may be an eye opener for customers who flock to chains such as Chipotle and Subway, which are perceived to be more healthy. Until Tuesday, they may have been blissfully unaware of the sodium content of a Chipotle loaded chicken burrito (2,790 mg), Subway’s foot-long spicy Italian sub (2,980 mg), TGI Friday’s classic Buffalo Wings (3,030 mg) or Applebee’s grilled shrimp and spinach salad (2,990 mg).”

To no one’s surprise, salt producers called the new ruling misguided, while public health advocates were completely in favor.

“The American Heart Association applauds New York City’s action to implement the Sodium Warning Icon, and we must emphasize the urgent need to do so quickly,” stated Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a member of the American Heart Association’s Board of Directors in New York City.  “High blood pressure is a scourge on our city, as a leading risk factor for stroke and heart disease. And the burden is often placed more heavily on communities of color. We look forward to the sodium warnings being in place before the end of this calendar year and encourage the restaurant industry to be supportive of this public health imperative.”

Will Other Cities Follow New York’s Lead?

New York City is well known for its novel nutritional ideas. While Mayor Bill de Blasio has introduced this sodium warning label, his predecessor Michael Bloomberg brought in a number of unconventional ideas, including a ban on smoking in public places and a ban on the sale of trans fats from food outlets. Under Bloomberg, the city also required chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus and put in place a health inspection system for venues that sold food and drink.

The city authorities say the reform will help New Yorkers get a better sense of what they are eating as part of the ongoing battle against obesity and diabetes.

Then there was the attempt to ban the so-called Big Gulp drinks, which didn’t turn out so well. In 2012, Bloomberg had the idea to ban restaurants, delis and movie theaters from selling soda and other sugary drinks in anything larger than a 16-ounce cup. Under the proposed ban, if customers wanted more than a 16-ounce cup of their favorite sugary beverage, they would have to purchase two (or more?) cups if the drink contained more than 25 calories per 8 ounces.

However, so many complaints were raised that the whole initiative died. In June, 2014, Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr. of the New York State Court of Appeals declared that the city’s Board of Health had “exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority” in seeking to enact this Big Gulp ban.

San Francisco Is Another Leader

San Francisco is another U.S. city that it is in the forefront when it comes to trying to keep its citizens healthy, or at least to make them aware of what they are consuming.

Last June, San Francisco city officials approved an ordinance that would require any advertisements for sugary beverages to include this language: “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee also put in place two other ordinances in June: to prohibit any advertising of sugary drinks on city-owned property, and to ban city departments using city money to buy such drinks.

A month later, to no one’s surprise, the American Beverage Association filed a civil complaint challenging the ordinances, declaring that they violate free speech rights under the First Amendment. The case is ongoing.

The city of San Francisco does have a first with its plan to ban the sale of single-use water bottles:

“Over the next four years, the ban will phase out the sale in public places of plastic bottles that contain 21 ounces of water or less. Waivers are permissible if an adequate alternative water source is not available.”

Such prohibitions are already in effect in 14 national parks, several universities and the city of Concord, Massachussetts.

Then there’s calorie labeling, something which New York City has had in place since 2008, but by the end of December, 2016, the FDA will make it mandatory around the country.

So is all this regulation of what we eat and drink a good idea? Not everyone thinks so, but isn’t it better to let consumers know what they are eating and drinking, even if they don’t pay attention to the details?

As Apple Metro CEO Zane Tankel said: “We’re not the food police, and we’re not telling (customers) what to do. But I think it’s important that we give them the opportunity to make the right decisions, or wrong decisions, if that’s what they so choose.”

 

90 comments

Jerome S
Jerome S4 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S4 months ago

thanks

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Jim V
Jim Ven4 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Jim V
Jim Ven4 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Andrew B.
Andrew B1 years ago

ty

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Agnieszka Marszalek

The natural salt is good, but still we need to be aware how much of it is put into processed food. Heart disease is not a myth, people die from it. We are the people.

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Brett Cloud
Brett Cloud1 years ago

Salt used to be "Don't worry about it!" then 2500 mg then (now) 2300 mg.

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Janis K.
Janis K1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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