New York City's Attempt To Regulate Salt

December 03, 2015

Would anyone disagree that a single menu item with over 2,300 milligrams of sodium shouldn’t carry a warning label?

Originally published on

When Marietta Whittlesey first published her book Killer Salt in 1983, the food industry was aghast with the book’s claim that it contained “shocking evidence linking depression, bloating, weight gain, migraines, hypertension and kidney disease to the salt we crave and consume.” Some 32 years later the debate continues on whether or not reducing sodium content is important to our good health.

In the Executive Summary of the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, it clearly states that “sodium (and saturated fat) are over consumed by the U.S. population relative to the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels …and that over consumption poses health risks.” The Committee went on to report that the goal should be to consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, which is the equivalent of one teaspoonful; although most American’s receive the average of about 3,300 milligrams per day mostly from processed foods, not the table top salt shaker.

The Icon Warning People That A Menu Item Contains More Than 2,300 mg. Of Sodium

New York City is once again stirring up the nutrition debate by issuing a new initiative to reduce sodium that will require restaurants with over 15 locations to post on menus and menu boards an icon of a salt shaker in a triangle warning consumers that this item contains 2,300 milligrams of sodium or more. 

Restaurants and trade groups are fighting the legislation saying everything from it will add additional costs which may impact the $15 minimum wage plan to saying that is unnecessary as Federal legislation that goes into effect in 2016 will already require nutritional information including sodium on menus for restaurant with 20 locations or more.

What unfortunately is not being discussed loudly enough is the health impact on the consumer. I find it hard to believe that anyone would disagree that a single menu item with over 2,300 milligrams of sodium shouldn’t carry a warning label. If the recommendation is that amount for an entire day, it is hard to believe that someone consuming such a dish would have no other sodium in the rest of their meals and snacks throughout the day.

This fight comes after successful efforts by NYC to list calorie counts and remove trans fats in restaurants, although Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to limit the size of packages for sodas did not see the light of day after the industry began a campaign questioning a consumers right to choose what size soda they could purchase and where.

This initiative is an important one, and there is little question that it could help consumers curb their sodium intake – the question will be whether or not we see powerful advertising that questions not the major issue of the health impact, but whether NYC’s health department has the right to institute the regulation and tell us what we should be eating.

What is important to note, according to a study published in October 2015 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is that when people eat low-salt foods they do not try to compensate for the lack of salt later in the day and that once people were on a low salt diet they came to like lower levels of salt in their foods. The dietary shift changed their behaviors and helped them reduce the risks from consuming too much sodium!