Foodservice Equipment Reports

NYC Wants QSRs To Post Sodium Warnings

New decade, new mayor, but the battle for menu transparency and healthier food products continues in New York.

The city could become the first in the country to require chain restaurants to place warnings on their menus next to dishes with high sodium levels. The city’s health board voted last week to consider a request from the Department of Health to require chain restaurants to post warning labels on menus and menu boards next to items with 2,300 mg or more of sodium. Doctors recommend that daily salt intake not exceed 2,300 mg. The average adult in New York consumes 3,200 mg of sodium per day, 40% more than the recommended amount.

The health department is targeting the city’s chain restaurants, which make up more than 12% of its eating places, stating that sodium content of food at those establishments is on the rise. It says the sodium content of menu items in the top QSR jumped more than 20% from 1997-2010.

The proposal is the health department’s first step toward passage of a sodium reduction mandate. If it passes into law, it would affect national chains operating 15 or more restaurants beginning Dec. 1. Restaurants not in compliance with the regulation could face fines of $200.

The New York State Restaurant Association has criticized the proposal. “The restaurants in New York City are already heavily regulated at every level. Federal law already mandates that restaurants provide sodium level information to consumers upon request and this proposal would only add to the mountain of red tape these establishments have to deal with,” stated the association’s President/CEO Melissa Fleischut.

The city required chain restaurants to display the caloric count of food on its menu items in 2006 and banned trans fats from restaurants in 2006.

“With separate labeling laws currently in the legislative houses and on the books at the state, federal and local levels, the composition of menus may soon have more warning labels than food products,” said Fleischut.

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