On Feb, 29, a New York appeals court barred New York City’s Board of Health from applying sanctions to restaurants that fail to print salt warnings on their extremely salty menu items.
In September, the board passed unanimously the sodium labeling requirement for restaurant chains that have more than 15 locations in the U.S. Restaurants had to comply with the new rules until March 1 when fines were expected to flow.
NYC is the nation’s first municipality to take such measure against unhealthy food. Under the new regulations, any food that has more than the daily recommended dose of 2.3 grams of salt should bear a salt-shaker icon beside it on the menu. City officials hope that this way they would curb heart disease prevalence among city’s residents.
But the National Restaurant Association was upset with the new requirement and sued the city. In a recent statement, the association praised the latest ruling and called the unusual labeling requirement “unlawful and unprecedented.”
So far, the city’s Board of Health can no longer fine restaurants that fail to comply with the new regulations starting March 1. Each fine amounts to $200. The decision will be reviewed by a panel of appellate judges.
NYC officials said that they firmly believe that judges would eventually uphold the new rules. Excess salt has often been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and heightened risk of stroke.
Still, this is not the first time New York City engages in a fight to safeguard residents’ health. It has battled junk food for years. Ten years ago it banned trans fats from city’s bakeries, restaurants, and other food venues.
In 2008, it forced restaurants to place calorie counts next to each food item on their menus. The federal government followed suit and pledged to turn the rule into federal law starting Dec. 1. Additionally, ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg had an attempt to ban 16-ounce sodas from sale, but without success.
Recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio told New Yorkers:
“If your meal has so much sodium that it merits a salt shaker on the menu, then – for the sake of your health – order something else.”
An official from the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene believes that the new labeling requirement is a matter of public health. Customers can now make informed choices when they decide to dine out.
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