New York became the first U.S. city or state to require chain restaurants to post a warning on menus when dishes contain high levels of salt.
The Board of Health on Wednesday unanimously approved the rule for food establishments with at least 15 locations nationwide, a group that generates about a third of the city’s restaurant traffic. The rule is intended to reduce high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, the Health Department said.
“High sodium intake is dangerous,” the Health Department said in a statement. “With a simple menu icon and statement to alert restaurant customers which items have exceedingly high sodium, New Yorkers will have easily accessible information.”
The Board of Health decision, which carries the force of law, requires restaurants to identify any offerings with more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, the recommended daily limit. Beginning Dec. 1, dishes exceeding the limit will bear a warning label: an icon of a salt shaker inside a triangle.
The restriction is consistent with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vow to continue a campaign started by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who banned transfats and required calorie counts on chain-restaurant menus. It goes further in regulating salt than did Bloomberg, who sought only voluntary pledges from restaurants and food manufacturers. The former mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
The restaurant industry criticized the measure as costly and unnecessary, in light of federal regulations planned for next year. Kevin Dugan, spokesman for the New York State Restaurant Association, said the group hasn’t decided whether to appeal.
“This is just the latest in a long litany of superfluous hoops that restaurants here in New York must jump through,” said Melissa Fleishut, chief executive officer of the association, in a prepared statement. “Every one of these cumbersome new laws makes it tougher and tougher for restaurants to find success.”
One in three New York City deaths are due to heart disease. Among black adults, 36 percent have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, a rate 50 percent higher than for whites, according to Health Department surveys.
The new federal regulations, part of the Affordable Care Act, would require chains of 20 restaurants or more to provide caloric and other nutritional information. In July, the Food and Drug Administration delayed implementation of the rule until after the 2016 election.