NYC chain restaurants to start putting salt warning labels on menu items

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NEW YORK — Fast food restaurants in New York City will start putting a salt shaker warning icon on menu items that contain high levels of sodium this week.

The new rule, approved by the board of Health in September, will go into effect on Tuesday. New York is the first city that requires chain restaurants to warn customers of food items that contain high salt content.

The recommended daily salt intake is 2,300 milligrams — about a teaspoon. Americans consume about 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily, way over the recommended limit.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett is expected to discuss the new requirement at a news conference Monday.

When it was passed in September, public health advocates applauded the proposal, but salt producers and restaurateurs called it a misguided step toward an onslaught of confusing warnings.

The new requirement is part of the National Salt Reduction Initiative — a push to reduce the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant foods.

“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,” Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a member of the American Heart Association’s Board of Directors in New York City, said when the warning was passed in September.

High salt intake can lead to cardiovascular disease, one of the leading causes of death in New York City, according to the Health Department.

“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,” Steinbaum said.

Restaurants are expected to have the salt icons on menus by Dec. 1, but city officials won’t start handing out fines until March 1.

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