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National Restaurant Association - Major new mandate hits NYC restaurants

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Major new mandate hits NYC restaurants

New York City restaurants whose brands have 15 or more locations nationally have less than three months to put warning labels next to certain items on their menus and menu boards.

That was the unanimous decision Wednesday by the New York City Board of Health, which decided to move full-speed ahead with the burdensome new mandate. The warning icon must be put next to any standard menu item or combination meal containing 2,300 mg of sodium or more. The requirement takes effect Dec. 1.

Restaurants will have to display this symbol next to meals containing 2,300 mg or more of sodium:

That's not all. Restaurants must also post a message “conspicuously, at the point of purchase,” which means anywhere in the restaurant where customers may order food. The message tells customers that the warning label indicates that "the sodium (salt) content of this item is higher than the total daily recommended limit (2300 mg). High sodium intake can increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease and stroke.”

Read our Q&A on the mandate.

New York is the first city to pass a mandate requiring sodium warning labels. The National Restaurant Association issued a statement opposing the mandate and is evaluating its next steps, including a possible legal challenge.

“The restaurant industry is committed to developing and offering lower-sodium options for customers,” the NRA said. “As an Association, we advocated for a national menu-labeling standard; however, we are concerned that local mandates like the New York City Board of Health’s approach are overly onerous and place an undue burden on New York’s restaurants that are working to comply with the federal law.”

In earlier comments submitted to the board of health, the NRA argued that the mandate, proposed in June, is outside of the board’s authority and is confusing and counterproductive, especially as restaurateurs prepare to comply with the federal menu-labeling law.

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 that can be sold by 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 a July recommendation by a “fast food wage board” appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to require fast food restaurants to pay a $15 minimum wage.

The sodium-warning mandate "is just the latest in a long litany of superfluous hoops that restaurants here in New York must jump through,” said Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association. “Every one of these cumbersome new laws makes it tougher and tougher for restaurants to find success."

Restaurants are already working to come into compliance with a new federal menu-labeling law that takes effect in December 2016. In addition to requiring calorie data on menus, that law will restaurants with 20 or more locations to begin offering sodium and other nutrition information in writing to guests on request.

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