A salt shaker symbol will now appear next to chain restaurant menu items that contain more than the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium.


New York City is entering a new era of nutrition warnings this week, when restaurant chains will have to start putting a special symbol on highly salty foods.

The one-of-a-kind rule goes into effect on Tuesday. Some sandwiches, salads and other menu items that exceed the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams – about a teaspoon – of sodium will require a salt shaker emblem.

It’s the latest in a string of new nutrition initiatives from the nation’s largest city, and it comes as health advocates, federal regulators and some food industry players try to get Americans to reduce their salt intake. Experts say most Americans consume too much of it, which increases their risk of high blood pressure and heart problems.

“With the high sodium warning label, New Yorkers will have easily accessible information that can affect their health,” said city health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett when the Council of Health approved the new warning in September. She is due to discuss this further at a press conference on Monday.

The average American consumes about 3,400 mg of salt per day, and public health advocates have hailed the move as a smart move to let diners know how much sodium they’re ordering. A TGI Friday’s New York Cheddar Bacon Burger has 4,280 mg, for example; Chili’s Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad contains 3460 mg. The figures come from the nutritional information published by the companies.

But salt producers say the city is acting on false impressions about the risks of salt in New Yorkers’ diets. An international study of 100,000 people suggested last year that most people’s salt intake was acceptable for heart health, although other scientists have criticized the study.

Restaurant owners say healthy eating initiatives shouldn’t target a single ingredient, and the city shouldn’t create its own salt warning program when federal regulators work on new national sodium guidelines.

“Each of these onerous new laws is making it increasingly difficult for restaurants to be successful,” said Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association, when the city council of health approved the salt requirement.

It will apply to about 10% of menu items at New York City outlets with at least 15 outlets nationwide, according to the Department of Health. Officials say these chains perform about a third of the city’s food service activities.

While restaurants are expected to comply from Tuesday, the city won’t start collecting fines until March 1.

In recent years, New York City has been a pioneer in banning trans fats from restaurant meals and forcing restaurant chains to display calorie counts on menus. He led the development of voluntary salt reduction goals for various staple foods and attempted, unsuccessfully, to limit the size of some sugary drinks.


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