Judge upholds NYC sodium warnings

Feb 24, 2016, 3:44 PM EST
Source: Leonid Mamchenkov/flickr
Source: Leonid Mamchenkov/flickr
New York state Supreme Court Justice Eileen Rakower ruled on Wednesday that New York City can fine large chain restaurants and fast-food places up to $600 beginning next week for not posting salt warnings on menu items that contain more than the recommended daily amount of sodium. Reuters reports:
The rule, believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, mandates restaurants with 15 or more locations nationwide to post a salt shaker encased in a black triangle as a warning symbol next to menu items with more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, the daily limit recommended by many nutritionists.
Dishes that have been flagged include Chipotle's loaded chicken burrito and Applebee's grilled shrimp and spinach salad.
"Information is power," Justice Eileen Rakower of New York state Supreme Court in Manhattan said in a ruling from the bench. Unlike the city's unsuccessful large-soda ban, she said, the rule did not restrict the use of sodium.
It required restaurants to place small images of saltshakers next to menu items high in salt. To earn a saltshaker image, an item has to contain at least 2,300 milligrams of sodium — a figure that many dietary nutritionists say is the total amount a person should consume in a day.
Some chains in the city, like Subway, T.G.I. Friday’s, Applebee’s and the Regal Entertainment Group, have already begun abiding by the sodium-warning rule, which is the first of its kind in the country.
Public health officials have long argued that Americans consume too much salt, and point to cheddar bacon burgers with nearly 4,300 mg and boneless Buffalo chicken salads with more than 3,000 mg as proof.
The warnings will apply to chains with at least 15 outlets nationwide, which health officials estimate account for about one-third of the city's restaurant business. Panera, Applebees and other chains have already started posting salt-warning labels.
Preston Ricardo, who represented the National Restaurant Association, likened the salt-shaker icons to warnings for biohazardous material that would confuse consumers, steer them to restaurants not required to post them and violate the First Amendment rights of restaurant owners forced to post them.