Here at FoodFacts.com we are big fans of transparency. You probably know that already if you’ve already visited our website. We’re big believers in the idea that every one of us has the right to know exactly what’s in the food we’re eating. While our website, some solid nutritional education and awareness and some label reading will take you a long way on your quest to healthy eating, when you walk through the doors of a restaurant, you may get thrown off course. The problem is that some people really need to stay ON course no matter where they are. Specifically folks with heart disease or high blood pressure absolutely need to understand how much sodium is in the foods they consume. Lack of that knowledge can really put their health at risk. If you live or work in New York City and frequent chain restaurants that all changed today! Don’t order anything with a salt shaker symbol next to it on the menu!
Starting Tuesday, chain restaurants in New York City will have to watch their salt. A new rule will require that a salt shaker warning symbol be placed on menu items that exceed the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium — or about a teaspoon of the stuff, the Associated Press reports. Restaurants will also have to post a warning stating that eating large amounts of salt can increase a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke.
The salt rule, which was approved by the New York City Board of Health in September, is thought to be the first of its kind in the United States. It will affect chains with at least 15 restaurants across the US, as well as certain movie theaters and concessions stands. The rule’s purpose is to help combat heart disease by giving people a better idea of what they’re eating. For instance, under the new rule, sandwiches like Quiznos’ 12-inch turkey club, which contains 3,390 milligrams of sodium, will have to be presented next to the salt shaker warning. Quiznos 8-inch turkey club, on the other hand, will not have to carry this warning because it contains 2,270 milligrams of sodium — or 30 milligrams less than the daily recommended limit. These numbers are only true in New York City, however. In the rest of the US, the 8-inch and the 12-inch contain larger amounts of sodium; 2,500 milligrams and 3,710 milligrams, respectively. “The recipes have only been changed in the New York City market,” said a spokesperson for Quiznos. This change may mean that the rule is already working as the city intended it to.
New York City officials hope that the rule will spur other cities to adopt similar guidelines for restaurants. “Many others recognize the important public health impact of excess sodium intake, and I am hopeful that others will follow suit,” Mary Bassett, New York City’s health commissioner, said in a news conference in September.
But the salt rule wasn’t well received by certain restaurant groups. “I understand the City Board of Health is very pleased to lead the way on these nutritional initiatives,” Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association, told The New York Times. “But what we see is that it ends up creating a patchwork of regulations across multiple states.” She thinks that sticking to current federal labeling guidelines, which only require calorie counts on certain restaurants’ menus, would be better.
The new rule will apply to about 10 percent of menu items served in chain restaurants and at least 15 chains across the US, according to the Associated Press. It takes effect Tuesday, but the city won’t hand out fines until March.
We get it. It’s burdensome for chain restaurants to comply with laws like this one. It costs money. It takes time. You know the refrain. The restaurants complaining need a bigger commitment to the consumers they serve … the consumers that support them … the consumers without whom they would not be in business. And let’s face it, we could all use to reduce our sodium intake – not just those of us with already existing health problems.
This is really a small adjustment for New York City restaurants. It isn’t as though the government forced them to reformulate their recipes or banned menu items with 2300 milligrams of salt from New York City menus. It’s an image of a salt shaker. There isn’t even a big red x through it. Just a simple salt shaker.
We’re all for this one. Of course, we’d also like to point out that if you download our new app, All My FoodFacts, you’ll have the sodium information for menu items from chain restaurants available to you wherever you are (not just in NYC). Give it a try and see how nutritional transparency can help you live a healthier, happier life!