New York City’s pioneering requirement for chain restaurants to flag salty items on their menus is legal and beneficial, an appeals court said Friday, rejecting a restaurant-industry challenge to the rule.
The state Supreme Court Appellate Division decision, which upholds a lower court ruling, comes with many eateries already using the salt-shaker-like emblems, required for any dish with more than a full day’s recommended dose of sodium. But the National Restaurant Assn. has been fighting the 2015 regulation, and said Friday it was examining options for its next move.
At a time when federal health officials say nine out of 10 Americans are eating too much sodium, raising risks of heart disease and stroke, the city says the warning symbols simply help diners see how salty some dishes can be. Even some fast-food salads can top 3,000 milligrams of salt; the recommended limit for a whole day is 2,300 mg, or about a teaspoon.
“We are all tempted to make unhealthy choices, but thanks to the Health Department and the Appellate Division, we have the information to avoid them,” Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement, calling the court decision “a common-sense ruling.”
“Local mandates on sodium regulation are a costly and onerous burden,” restaurant association executive vice president Cicely Simpson said in a statement Friday.
The salt-producers trade group, the Salt Institute, meanwhile, notes that some research challenges the underlying goal of getting people to eat less salt. A 2014 international study involving 100,000 people suggested most people’s salt intake was OK for heart health, though other scientists faulted the research.
New York’s regulation applies to chains with at least 15 outlets nationwide, which do about one-third of the city’s restaurant business. About 10% of their menu items qualify for the warnings, health officials have estimated.
The rule took effect in December 2015, but the city didn’t begin levying fines until June, partly because of legal action.
New York has broken ground on a number of healthy-eating initiatives in recent years. Under former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the city forced chain eateries to post calorie counts on menus, banned artificial trans fats from restaurant meals and tried to impose a size limit on sodas and other sugary drinks. Courts struck down the beverage measure.