Dining

Pass the Salt Law

NYC chains will have to label high-salt menu items
Photo: Tasting Table
NYC Salt Law

New Yorkers are about to get a strong dose of fast-food reality.

Starting tomorrow, large chain restaurants that serve dishes that exceed a day's recommended sodium intake will have to display a little salt shaker symbol alongside the item on a menu.

Just how much sodium are we talking about? More than 2,300 milligrams, or about a teaspoon's worth of table salt. Culprits include Chipotle's carnitas burrito, which clocks in at 2,650 milligrams of sodium and Subway's spicy Italian footlong, which registers at 3,200 milligrams. Most Americans consume a whopping 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily, a level that's been linked to high blood pressure and heart problems.

Earlier this year, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed for the salt shaker symbol as part of a citywide effort to lower the premature mortality rate by 25 percent in the next 25 years, making the city the first place in the country to make a move on the National Salt Reduction Initiative.

Still, it's unclear how much of a difference the symbol will make. Chain restaurants that list the calorie count of dishes on their menus haven't seen immense changes in diners' ordering habits, though public health advocates have noted small differences. Either way, it will be a while before advocates and researchers are able to measure the success of the new effort. The law goes into effect tomorrow, and fines for restaurants that don't comply will be doled out starting in March.

Update: The National Restaurant Association announced that it plans to sue New York City's Department of Health over the new regulation, arguing that laws like this should be uniform across the country and that the new regulation places a burden on small businesses. This isn't the Association's first case against the city's DOH; in 2012 it sued the city over rules to limit the size of sugary drinks sold, and won. Stay tuned.   

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