New York City adopts sodium warning requirement for chain restaurants.

  • As previously covered on this blog, New York City’s (NYC) Department of Health proposed to require chain restaurants to add a sodium warning to menus and menu boards next to items containing more than the recommended daily intake of 2,300 mg of sodium.
  • On September 9, 2015, NYC health officials voted unanimously to adopt the nation’s first sodium warning requirement.  The rule will apply to all restaurants that are part of chains with more than 15 locations nationwide.  Restaurants will be required to display a salt shaker icon on menus and menu boards next to any food item — whether a standard menu item or a combination meal — with a high sodium content (>2,300 mg of sodium) or on tags next to any food on display that is a food item with a high sodium content.  Restaurants also must post the following statement conspicuously at the point of purchase:  “Warning: [salt shaker icon] indicates that the sodium (salt) content of this item is higher than the total daily recommended limit (2300 mg).  High sodium intake can increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease and stroke.”  The rule takes effect on December 1, 2015, and violations will incur a penalty of $200.
  • As anticipated, the final rule is being met with praise from consumer health advocates and criticism by restaurateurs and salt producers.  Implementing the rule will pose logistical challenges for restaurants, particularly in light of the relatively tight compliance time frame.  Also, despite NYC officials’ position that the sodium warning is a “warning label” and not nutrition information, the rule ultimately could be preempted by federal menu labeling regulations.