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Chain Restaurants Will Start Telling You About Their Saltiest Items Tomorrow

Menu items with more than a teaspoon of sodium will have salt shaker labels next to them.

Chain restaurants will have to have a black-and-white salt shaker next to high sodium items.
Chain restaurants will have to have a black-and-white salt shaker next to high sodium items.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images/Department of Health

New Yorkers will start seeing warnings for high salt foods on chain restaurant menus as early as Tuesday, according to the AP. Mayor Bill de Blasio's new law, which passed earlier this year, forces restaurants to mark menu items containing more than the daily recommended amount of sodium — 2,300 milligrams, or about a teaspoon — with a black-and-white salt shaker icon. Consuming too much sodium has been linked to health issues like high blood pressure and heart disease, and the rule is intended to give diners more information about their food. It goes into effect on Dec. 1 and only applies to restaurants with more than 15 locations across the country.

The law — the first of its kind in the country — was controversial when it first came up earlier this year, with public health advocates saying it didn't do enough and restaurants saying it was an unnecessary regulation on the industry. Many items at chain restaurants exceed daily sodium intake, such as Chili's buffalo chicken salad with nearly 3,500 milligrams of sodium, or the Quiznos turkey club with 2,500 milligrams of sodium. But the nationwide trend in more food labeling has had an unclear impact on public health, according to some studies. Already, chain restaurants are required to list the number of calories in menu items, and one study found that people armed with calorie counts didn't eat less food.

Still, the city is banking on the new law helping to fight obesity and mortality rates in New York. The Health Department said the law will likely impact about 10 percent of menu items at chains in New York, the AP reports. Restaurants are expected to start following the rule on Tuesday, but the city won't start collecting fines for noncompliance until March. "With the high sodium warning label," Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett has said, "New Yorkers will have easily accessible information that can affect their health."