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City chain restaurants now required to post sodium warnings

Update: On Monday, February 29, a New York Appeals Court stopped the city from immediately enforcing that the salt shaker warning signs be posted on menus. According to reports, an appellate Judge granted an interim stay of enforcement of the rule.

This comes after the rule was challenged by lawyers representing the Restaurant Association. According to Reuters, the Restaurant Association called the rule “arbitrary and capricious” and “filled with irrational exclusions and nonsensical loopholes.”

New York City is officially the first city in the country to require sodium warnings to be posted at chain restaurants.

The New York State Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday, February 24, that – through the sodium warning rule – chain restaurants must post salt icons next to items with 2,300 milligrams or more of sodium, the total recommended daily limit. The requirement had been challenged by the National Restaurant Association which had asked the court for a preliminary injunction to prevent the rule from going into effect on March 1.

“If your meal has so much sodium that it merits a salt shaker on the menu, then – for the sake of your health – order something else,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Too many New Yorkers are at risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke due to high sodium intake, and this salt shaker will help New Yorkers make better decisions about their diet — ultimately leading to a healthier and quite possibly a longer life.”

An image of the salt shaker icon that will appear next to menu items with over 2,300 milligrams of sodium.
The salt shaker icon that will appear next to menu items with over 2,300 milligrams of sodium.

“The State Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the sodium warning label rule is a win for the health of every New York City resident,” added Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “New Yorkers will now have the information necessary to make informed and better decisions about their diets and their health. We encourage everyone dining at these establishments to use this easily accessible information when making food choices.”

The sodium warning rule — initially passed in September of 2015 by the New York City Board of Health — was enacted to alert New Yorkers about foods with excessively high levels of sodium.

Chains with 15 or more locations nationwide have until March 1 to comply with the new requirement; after that date, the city can issue fines for non-compliance. Chains such as Applebee’s, Subway, TGI Friday’s, and the Regal Entertainment Group movie theaters have already begun to implement the rule, according to DOHMH.

“Americans deserve to know how much sodium is in their food,” said Lawrence Appel, MD, MPH, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, and the director of the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research. “This sodium warning label identifies extreme levels of sodium on restaurant menus.  Information like this will empower people to make choices that are better for their health. The science is clear: lowering sodium intake lowers blood pressure in adults and children. Lower blood pressure means better heart health for Americans.”

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