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National Restaurant Association - Salt in the wound: NYC nixes sodium delay request

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Salt in the wound: NYC nixes sodium delay request

The New York City Department of Health today said it will not delay the implementation date of a new sodium regulation set to take effect Dec. 1.

In a letter written earlier this month, the National Restaurant Association asked the DOH to delay the start date for one year.  The health department denied the request, saying it could not put off implementation of an “important rule that will help New Yorkers make healthier choices.”

The NRA asked for the delay for several reasons, including:

  • The Dec. 1 implementation date doesn’t align with the FDA’s 2016 implementation of the federal menu labeling law and would cause confusion and additional costs regarding compliance
  • The Dec. 1. deadline wouldn’t allow for sufficient time to educate staff or consumers on the requirements
  • The FDA is already addressing sodium consumption in the federal menu labeling law requirements
  • The regulation, in its current form, is vague in terms of labeling requirements

The agency said it would not issue fines for noncompliance until March 1, and indicated it plans to have its health inspectors educate restaurant non-compliant operators about the rule during that period.

Health Commissioner Mary Bassett added that her department would consider accommodating individual requests for modifications of the rule, such as granting more time to restaurants that need to solve problems unique to digital menus in order to comply.

The agency unanimously passed the mandate last month, which requires brands operating 15 or more locations nationally to post warning icons next to standard menu items or combination meals that contains 2,300 mg of sodium or more. The restaurants must also post a message “conspicuously, at the point of purchase” to explain that the warning label indicates "the sodium (salt) content of the item is higher than the total daily recommended limit (2300 mg),” and that “high sodium intake can increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease and stroke.”

For New York City restaurateurs, the mandate comes just two years after the board of health attempted to limit the size of sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants. The “beverage ban,” as it came to be known, was overturned after a lawsuit by the NRA and other business groups. It also comes on the heels of the recent vote by a “fast-food wage board” appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to require fast food restaurants to pay their hourly employees a $15 minimum wage.

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