NYC authorities have recently adopted a new rule forcing restaurants to introduce salt warnings, whenever a menu item has an overly high amount of sodium.
The proposal was actually part of the National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI), which brings together 95 health organizations and public agencies (at a local and state level), with the purpose of curbing salt consumption among Americans.
Prior studies have proven that once sodium intake is kept under control, this results in blood pressure reduction, making it more unlikely for people to develop cardiovascular disease, which is by far the most prevalent cause of death in the United States.
In spite of the fact that the Food and Drug Administration has been urging food producers to limit sodium concentrations in their products ever since 1982, salt intake has continued to soar in the last decades, by around 48% among men, and by approximately 69% among women.
The NSRI campaign aims to take more stringent measures against this unsettling trend, by establishing recommended salt concentrations for 25 types of restaurant food items, and 62 assortments of packaged meals.
Now, with New York’s new legislation, it appears that this goal may actually be achievable. The proposal, initiated by the New York City Department of Health, was accepted without any opposition by the Board of Health, on September 9.
The sodium warning rule came in effect on December 1, and will be applied across all restaurant chains which have at least 15 locations across the United States.
Currently, the recommended daily salt intake is of around 2300 milligrams (which corresponds to just one teaspoon), but the average American actually consumes 3400 milligrams of sodium every day.
In an effort to counter this phenomenon, food items which contain the maximum prescribed salt quantity of 2300 mg would have to be easily distinguishable in the menu.
This will be achieved through an image showing a white salt shaker placed within a black triangle, and this icon will be printed beside the name of that particular dish. The labels will serve as warnings to consumers, by drawing their attention to the fact that the meal already covers all the sodium that should be ingested throughout an entire day
Overall, the new measure will probably affect around a tenth of all the menu items available in restaurant chains located in the Big Apple, and dining establishments that refuse to implement it will face fines of up to $200, starting from March 2016.
Given that many diners tend to underestimate the amount of sodium that restaurant workers use while cooking, health advocates welcome this initiative, but at the same time they point our that in fact some individuals should be even more preoccupied with their daily salt intake.
For instance, those who suffer from chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure or diabetes should only consume up to 1500 milligrams of sodium every day.
In addition, the same recommendation should also be followed by African Americans (who have an elevated salt sensitivity) and by adults older than 51, who are more at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
It remains to be seen if other cities across the U.S. will also follow suit and introduce such regulations, especially since the National Restaurant Association has already announced that it would sue the NYC Department of Health, claiming the guidelines are abusive and unnecessary.
Even if the initiative does indeed take off, it will eventually be up to consumers to follow these recommendations.
Since calorie labels and soda bans haven’t really managed to deter people from ordering foods heavy in sugar and fat, it’s likely that even these new salting warnings will also fall on deaf ears.
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