The National Restaurant Association is filing suit this week against New York City’s Department of Health over its decision requiring chain restaurants of at least 15 stores to post warning icons next to menu items or combination meals containing 2,300 milligrams of sodium or more.
Restaurant group to sue NYC over sodium rule
The NRA asserts that the mandate, which took effect Dec. 1, is another in a series of burdensome, costly and unnecessary regulations the city has heaped upon local restaurateurs.
“Consumers should have the same access to nutrition information from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon,” the NRA said. “Restaurateurs across the country are already working diligently to comply with the federal menu-labeling law by providing comprehensive and uniform nutrition information to consumers.”
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The FDA’s federal menu-labeling law is already set to take effect in December of next year.
The Association said local mandates like the one put forth by New York City would unravel that uniformity and “place an overly onerous and hefty burden” on restaurateurs who are already grappling with increased operating costs resulting from recent actions taken by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) administration.
“With its sodium mandate, the Board of Health is not only inflicting financial burden on restaurants, but also imposing a view regarding the health effects of sodium intake that is the subject of scrutiny based on recent and evolving scientific research,” the NRA stated.
The health department said the regulation, which it passed unanimously in September, was enacted to reduce the amount of sodium consumed by adults and help them to better understand the link between high sodium intake and hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Officials indicated the agency would not issue fines for noncompliance until March 1, and plan to have health inspectors educate operators on the rule during that time.
The mandate requires covered chains to post the warning icon -- a salt shaker inside a triangle -- next to menu items or combination meals with more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Restaurants must also post a message at the point of sale explaining that the item’s sodium content is higher than the daily recommended limit.
The regulation comes on the heels of a recent vote by a “fast-food wage board” appointed by Gov. Cuomo requiring fast-food restaurants to pay hourly employees a $15 minimum wage.
“The Department of Health thinks it is targeting corporate chains, but in reality is dealing yet another blow to many of New York’s small businesses that have been working and continue to work hard to provide nutritional access to their customers,” the NRA said. “That is why we are taking legal action against this latest assault. It goes too far, too fast for New York’s restaurant community.”