New York City has begun yet another consumer health advocacy program, much to the chagrin of many locals. This time, they’re targeting sodium-rich foods offered at popular restaurants, by marking each item with an ominous saltshaker symbol.
According to Business Insider, the new policy was recently approved by the NYC Board of Health and took effect on Dec. 1. It will force local eateries to insert a black saltshaker emblem next to menu items that are high in sodium, and many restaurant owners feel as if this is another example of the state government meddling in their business.
The policy will require certain establishments to add the saltshaker symbol to any menu item that exceeds the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium. For the sake of comparison, a New York Cheddar and Bacon Burger from T.G.I. Friday’s weighs in at 4,280 mg of sodium. Currently, the average American consumes about 3,400 mg of salt per day.
Proponents of the new sodium policy note that experts have long said that Americans consume too much salt, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure and serious heart conditions.
“With the high sodium warning label, New Yorkers will have easily accessible information that can affect their health,” said NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.
However, opponents of the policy argue that the city is unfairly singling out one ingredient to support their own agenda. Restaurateurs account for most of the opposition, stating that the new regulations will only make it harder for them to stay afloat.
“Every one of these cumbersome new laws makes it tougher and tougher for restaurants to find success,” said NYS Restaurant Association President Melissa Fleischut.
Signs like the saltshaker symbol have a substantial impact on the buying decisions of consumers, which makes such policies an issue for restaurant owners. While about 35% of people passing by wouldn’t even know a business existed without a sign, that same percentage is likely to walk out of a restaurant if its menu is filled with health warnings.
According to CNN, this is not the NYC Board of Health’s first venture into consumer health regulations. The city lost a highly-publicized appeal case in 2014 after a proposal to ban large sugary drinks was blocked by lower courts.
As for the sodium warnings, the policy will apply to chains in NYC with at least 15 outlets throughout the country. In total, it affects about 10% of all menu items offered by these restaurants.
Though the policy officially goes into effect on Dec. 1, the city said they will not start collecting fines until March 1 for those who choose not to add the warnings on their menu.