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NYC Chains Could Soon Be Required to Post Warnings Next to Their Saltiest Dishes

A new proposal is already causing controversy.


First came calorie counts, now salt. The city's board of health is worried that New Yorkers are consuming too much sodium, and is meeting today to discuss whether to require chain restaurants to tell customers when a dish exceeds the government's recommended daily limit. Dishes with more than 2,300 milligrams (about a teaspoon of salt, and the recommended daily intake) would have a little salt shaker icon posted next to them on menus, which the city hopes would deter people from consuming excessive sodium, which is linked to high blood pressure and ultimately heart attacks.

The idea is already stirring controversy: The New York Restaurant Association says the measure would add yet another level of regulation to restaurants that "are already heavily regulated at every level" in New York City, explains president Melissa Fleischut. It's also unclear if easily accessible information about nutrition, or lack thereof, in the form of form of calorie counts actually improves health, though health officials think the symbol could make things simple for diners. Some also point out that labeling only items that contain an entire day's or more worth of salt would still be leaving out a lot of very salty things.

In 2010 Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed for salt reduction by food companies, but those regulations were voluntary, while this measure could become law. If the proposal gets the go ahead, a vote could come as early as September and warning labels could show up as early as December.

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