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NYC gets OK to issue salt-warning fines as suit continues

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MANHATTAN — A rule requiring chain restaurants in the five boroughs to slap sodium warnings on especially salty dishes was upheld Thursday by the Appellate Court, allowing New York City to start enforcing the first-of-its-kind rule.

Food items that contain the total recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams — about a teaspoon — or more of sodium now will come with a salt shaker icon on menus to warn consumers of their high salt content.

Already chains such as Applebee’s, Subway, TGI Friday’s and Regal Entertainment Group movie theaters have started to slap the label on their products, the city said.

All other chain restaurants — that is, eateries with 15 or more locations nationwide — operating in the city will have to do the same.

The ruling “allows New Yorkers to make informed and better decisions about their diets and their health. Restaurant chains throughout the city have already begun posting the warning labels on their menus and helping New Yorkers watch the salt,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. “Diners are now empowered to make informed decisions to lower their sodium intake and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and other heart-related ailments.”

Bassett called the decision “a tremendous victory.”

The labels have been the subject of debate and legislation for months.

The city’s board of health unanimously passed the sodium warning rule Sept. 9, 2015, saying New Yorkers deserve to know, for the sake of their health, how much salt is in their food.

An appellate judge had put enforcement temporarily on hold in February. A panel of appeals judges Thursday lifted the hold.

But they didn’t decide who will prevail in the National Restaurant Association’s lawsuit against the city Health Department over the warnings. They’re required for chain eatery dishes that top the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of salt. That’s about a teaspoon.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says he’s pleased with the decision. The restaurant association wants the city to delay enforcement voluntarily until the case is decided.

An average adult in the five boroughs consumes nearly 40 percent more than the recommended daily limit of sodium, which has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, according to the NYC Department of Mental Health and Hygiene.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.