NYC First U.S. City To Require Sodium Limits

November 30, 2015

Is-sodium-reduction-falling-down-the-food-policy-agendaThe Health Department’s sodium warning requirement goes into effect tomorrow Tuesday, December 1, 2015. Food service establishments from Harlem to Hollis in New York City that are part of chains with 15 or more locations nationwide will be required to post icons next to items with 2,300 milligrams or more of sodium – the total recommended daily limit.This will include combo items, such as an order-by-number meal that might include a soup and a sandwich or a burger and french fries. The rule also requires chain food service establishments to post a warning statement where customers place their orders. The statement explains that items with the icon have more than the recommended daily limit of sodium and that high sodium intake can increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease and stroke. Leading scientific bodies, including the United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommend that Americans reduce their daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg of sodium. New York is the first city in the nation to require chain restaurants to post warning labels next to menu items that contain high levels of sodium. Chains with 15 or more locations have 90 days to comply with the new rule before the possibility of receiving a fine. The proposal was passed unanimously on September 9, 2015 by the New York City Board of Health.

More information can be found at the agency’s website,

“The vast majority of adults in New York City consume more sodium than recommended, and too few understand the link between high sodium intake and hypertension, heart disease, and stroke,” said Dr. Mary Bassett, New York City Health Commissioner. “These warnings are needed in restaurants because the majority of sodium in our diet is not coming from what we decide to add with the salt shaker at the table, it’s already in the food when we buy it. These icons will help New Yorkers make more informed choices when dining out.” 

“When calorie counts were mandated in NYC, we adjusted our menus to comply, creating a transparency of communication with our guests ensuring they had information necessary to make meal decisions. In that same spirit of transparency, we have revised our menus again to include this sodium warning. We want our guests to have as much information as needed to make informed decisions when dining in our restaurants,” said Zane Tankel, CEO of Apple-Metro, owner of Applebee’s restaurants in New York City (one on 125th Street in Harlem).

“The American Heart Association is thrilled for the pending implementation of the Sodium Warning Label rule,” said Robin Vitale, Senior Director of Government Relations.  “Americans are consuming dangerous levels of sodium, most often found in processed or restaurant food. This rule will help to increase transparency.  As a valuable tool for the majority of New Yorkers who should be limiting their sodium consumption due to high risk for hypertension, heart disease and stroke,  NYC chain restaurants will have to use this warning icon whenever those food items have at least 2,300mg of sodium.  We applaud those restaurants that are already implementing the rule, and we look forward to full implementation by all chain restaurants in the weeks ahead.”

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“New York City’s common-sense approach and gumption in its efforts to reduce sodium consumption should lead the way for public health officials across the country and in the Obama Administration,” said Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., President of the Center Science in the Public Interest. “And as Applebee’s quick compliance shows, this can be done with little burden and cost to industry and should be quickly adopted by other chains.”

  • The average New York City adult consumes almost 40 percent more sodium than the recommended limit per day.
  • Black and Hispanic New Yorkers consume more sodium than White New Yorkers
  • The majority of sodium in our diets comes from restaurant and processed foods.
  • Consuming too much sodium is linked to increased blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Together, heart disease and stroke kill more Americans each year than any other cause.

Chain restaurants constitute one-third of all restaurant traffic in New York City. Evidence suggests that health warnings increase knowledge and can lead to decreased purchase and consumption of certain products. Labels facilitate education and can inform customers of the risks of consuming certain products. For more information on the sodium warning rule, call 311 or visit

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