Like his predecessor before him, Mayor de Blasio has declared war against salt with a new proposal through the Health Department to implement warning labels on menus. Like markers that denote vegetarian and gluten-free items, the proposal would place a salt shaker icon next to menu items containing 2,300 milligrams of sodium—the daily recommendation in many circles— or more, health officials told the Associated Press. Au pair de Blasio?
Unlike Nanny Bloomberg's voluntary measure to reduce sodium in packaged items, restaurants with 15 or more outlets in NYC would be required to use the icons, similar to the city's pioneering calorie count regulations. According to the Health Department, the "sodium content of menu items in leading fast-food restaurants increased greater than 20% from 1997 to 2010."
"It's quite difficult for consumers to understand which products might have too much sodium in them," deputy commissioner Dr. Sonia Angell told the Times.
For example, a chicken burrito from Chipotle with the works (white rice, sour cream, cheese, salsa, guacamole, lettuce) boasts 2,485 milligrams of sodium—plus one billion calories—and Sizzling Skillet Fajitas with shrimp and steak at Applebee's has a whopping 5,960 milligrams, nearly two and a half times the recommended amount of sodium. High sodium intake has been linked to high blood pressure, which in turn can lead to stroke and heart attack.
During their meeting with the Board of Health today, the Health Department will ask to implement this change to the Health Code to "educate consumers about the dangers of high sodium as well as identify food items with high sodium content." Of course, most restaurants—with the exception of Panera Bread—and the Salt Institute aren't keen on more regulations. They have an ally in public advocate Letita James.
"We have seen this happen before with the failed soda ban," she warned. "The intention to improve the health of New Yorkers is good. But the process is wrong. There is no reason not to send this through the elected City Council."