NYC’s Salty Food Warnings Can Now Be Enforced With Fines

  • Restaurant chains must place warnings on high-sodium meals
  • Appeals court drops temporary ban on enforcing label mandate

New York City can now fine restaurant chains for failing to post salt warnings on menus as a state appeals court rejected a trade group’s request to block enforcement of the law.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio lauded the decision, calling the rule a "common sense regulation" that will help New Yorkers make better choices and lead healthier lives. Eateries had already begun posting the required salt-shaker symbols next to high-sodium menu items when the National Restaurant Association challenged the mandate in December.

The restaurant group won a temporary block on enforcing the rule in February, the day before the city was set to start issuing fines for violations. The appeals court on Thursday lifted that ban without commenting further.

“New Yorkers deserve to know a whole day’s worth of sodium could be in one menu item, and too much sodium could lead to detrimental health problems, like high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke," de Blasio said.

The city was the first municipality in the country to require restaurant chains to post sodium warnings on menus. Eateries with 15 or more locations in the U.S. must place the warning on selections with 2,300 milligrams or more of sodium. Violators are subject to fines as high as $200 for each infraction.

For more on New York City’s salt rules and the court fight that ensued, click here.

The Washington-based restaurant association, which represents more than 500,000 businesses, said Thursday’s ruling will force restaurants to comply with what it called an “unlawful and unprecedented sodium mandate” before the court has a chance to hear the merits of its case.

"We would hope that the New York City Department of Health voluntarily delays enforcement pending a hearing and determination of our appeal later this year," the group said in a statement. "We look forward to a full and fair opportunity to make our case on behalf of New York City’s restaurateurs."

The rule is the latest move in New York City’s efforts to improve public health through government regulation, and follows moves by de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, to post information on calorie counts and trans fats on menus.

The threshold of 2,300 milligrams of sodium, about a teaspoon’s worth, is the recommended daily limit for adults in the U.S. New York City’s Health Department has said one in three deaths in the city are due to heart disease.

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The case is National Restaurant Association v. New York City Department of Health, 654024/2015, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan.)

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