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Sodium Warning Mandate Coming to New York City

The New York City Board of Health passed a first ever sodium warning regulation. It passed on September 9, 2015, with a compliance date of December 1, 2015.

The new amendment to the New York City Health Code will affect about 3,000 restaurant locations from hundreds of nationwide brands. Restaurants doing business in New York City with 15 or more locations nationwide will be required to add a high sodium "warning label" to menus and menu boards, identifying food items that contain 2300 mg of sodium or more.

NYC sodium (salt) warning icon

The reasoning for the ruling was based on what is seen as an increase in the amount of sodium found in restaurant foods over the last 18 years, pointed mainly to fast food chains. Since the ruling targets businesses with multiple establishments, it is attempting to disrupt the over-salting of food in large chains.

The contemporary food retail environment is an important contributor to the epidemic of sodium overconsumption. Despite myriad efforts and initiatives to curb sodium consumption by public health and other organizations, the sodium content of fast food, in particular, appears to be on the rise. A 2013 study examining the change in the sodium content of menu offerings at 8 leading fast food chains found that the mean sodium content of menu items had increased more than 23% between 1997 and 2010.
Heavily marketed and competitively priced, the food available in many restaurants contains very high levels of sodium. A 2014 study analyzing the nutritional profile of more than 2,500 items from chain restaurants in and near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, found that adult meals contained an average of 3,512mg of sodium, more than 50% above the daily recommended intake limit.
A similar study using receipt data collected in 2007 from over 6,500 transactions occurring at fast food chain outlets in NYC demonstrated that the sodium content of 20% of meals exceeded the daily recommended sodium intake limit. Today, nearly one-third of the sodium consumed by Americans comes from restaurant food.
... Americans consume excessive amounts of sodium. More than 95% of American adults report consuming more than 2300 mg of sodium per day, the maximum recommended daily limit. On average, American adults consume approximately 3,400 mg of sodium daily, well above the recommended limit. Sodium overconsumption is a reality in NYC as well. A 2010 study conducted found that average daily sodium consumption among New Yorkers was more than 3,200 mg.

The required warning:
A covered establishment that offers for sale any food item with a high sodium content must provide the following warning:

  1. An icon must appear on a menu or menu board next to any food item with a high sodium content, or on a tag next to any food on display that is a food item with a high sodium content:
    The icon must be a black and white equilateral triangle as wide as it is tall and equal in height to the largest letter in the food item's name, as displayed on the menu, menu board, or tag next to any food on display; and

  2. The following statement must be posted conspicuously at the point of purchase:

Warning: NYC sodium (salt) warning symbol indicates that the sodium (salt) content of this item is higher than the total daily recommended limit (2300 mg). High sodium intake can increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease and stroke.

For reference: Notice of Adoption of Amendments to Article 81 of the New York City Health Code

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Jamila Thompson

With 10 years in the restaurant industry and 7 years as a cook/chef, I have a passion for helping restaurant owners succeed and create wonderful experiences for their guests. Food is love.

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