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New York City Board of Health Requires Sodium Warnings on Saltiest Restaurant Items

Statement of CSPI President Michael F. Jacobson

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Overly salty chain restaurant meals are turning Americans’ hearts and brains into ticking time bombs—gradually raising our risks of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Reducing Americans’ consumption of sodium must be a major objective for public health agencies at all levels of government. Today’s action by the New York City Board of Health will help consumers avoid some of the riskiest chain-restaurant offerings. The city will require those restaurants to place a warning symbol next to items that have at least an entire day’s worth of sodium. Someone craving California Pizza Kitchen’s Meat Craver’s pizza, for example, might not have his or her health at top of mind, but seeing a little saltshaker next to that item on the menu might be enough to get some to reconsider. That particular meal happens to have more than 4,000 milligrams of sodium, or almost two days’ worth. If it were up to me, New York City would put two saltshaker symbols next to it!

I hope that New York City’s move will spur restaurants to voluntarily lower sodium levels nationally and embolden public health authorities around the country to require sodium warnings on menus. The city’s action might even prompt the Food and Drug Administration to come down from its perch on the sidelines and issue its long-awaited voluntary sodium-reduction targets for the industry to consider.

As artificial trans fat becomes harder to find at restaurants nationwide, and as calorie counts increasingly appear on chain restaurant menus nationwide, it’s useful to remember that those now-popular advances started in New York City.

Chain restaurant meals with more than a day’s worth of sodium—2,300 mg—would warrant a warning symbol under the New York City Board of Health’s sodium proposal.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).