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National Restaurant Association - Restaurants proactive on lower sodium in foods

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Restaurants proactive on lower sodium in foods

Restaurateurs are making strides to ensure customers have more access to healthful dining options, such as lower-sodium items, when dining out, the National Restaurant Association said following a June 10 proposal by New York City’s health department requiring restaurant chains to post warning labels next to menu items containing more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium.

The proposal is the health department’s first step toward passage of a sodium reduction mandate. If it passes into law, it would affect national chains operating 15 or more restaurants beginning Dec. 1. Restaurants not in compliance with the regulation could face fines of $200.

According to the proposal, the warning labels would appear in the form of black-and-white salt-shaker stickers placed against menu items that are higher in sodium than what is deemed the recommended daily intake.

“The restaurant industry has been actively engaged in efforts to provide consumers with lower-sodium options for some time -- without the burden of government mandates,” said Joan McGlockton, the NRA's vice president of industry affairs and food policy.

The health department hadn’t put this action on its annual regulatory agenda because it said it didn’t anticipate taking this step when it published the agenda earlier this year.

Restaurants are working proactively to be transparent with guests and provide nutrition information specific to their dietary needs, McGlockton said. The NRA supported the federal menu-labeling regulations that are due to take effect later this year, working closely with government and public-health officials to ensure the legislation’s smooth passage.

“We joined forces with more than 70 public health and stakeholder groups to advocate for a national uniform standard so anyone dining out could have clear, easy-to-use nutrition information at the point of ordering,” she said. “That information is presented in the same way, no matter what part of the country a restaurant chain operates in. Through this new menu-labeling standard, guests will have access to sodium and other nutritional information to help inform the choices they make.”

New York City’s health department is expected to hold a public hearing on the matter, but has not yet indicated when that will happen.

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