New York Salt War Heats Up With Emergency Reprieve

(Bloomberg) -
(Isser Berg/Hamodia)
(Isser Berg/Hamodia)

A trade group fighting a New York City rule requiring warnings on salty menu items won an emergency reprieve from enforcement of the new regulation, one day before the city was set to start issuing fines for violations.

The city recently became the first U.S. municipality to require restaurant chains to post high-sodium warnings on menus, forcing eateries with 15 or more locations nationwide to place a triangular salt-shaker icon beside items with at least 2,300 milligrams of sodium. The National Restaurant Association, which represents more than 500,000 businesses, challenged the rule.

Justice Eileen Rakower said last week that the rule doesn’t prohibit restaurants from offering high-sodium foods but merely provides information to consumers about items that exceed the recommended daily salt limit.

An appellate judge in Manhattan on Monday granted the trade group’s request to delay enforcement of the rule pending review by a larger panel of appeals judges, said Christin Fernandez, a spokeswoman for the group. Starting on Tuesday, violators were due to face fines as high as $200 for each infraction.

The National Restaurant Association said in response to the decision that the salt rule is “unlawful and unprecedented” and that it looked forward to making its case before the appellate court. The city’s Law Department said in an e-mail it was looking into the matter and would respond shortly. The ruling couldn’t be immediately confirmed in court records.

The threshold of 2,300 milligrams of sodium, about a teaspoon’s worth, is the recommended daily limit for adults in the United States. High sodium levels can lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, New York’s Health Department has said, citing U.S. dietary guidelines and the Institute of Medicine studies. One in three New York City deaths is due to heart disease, the department has said.

The city’s Board of Health acted on its own with no guidance from legislators and makes decisions based on “political and economic aspirations,” S. Preston Ricardo, an attorney for the National Restaurant Association, told Rakower last week. “It’s way too overbroad and it advises people of things that may not apply to them,” he said.