Effective tomorrow, New York City chain restaurants will be required to post a sodium warning label next to items containing at least a day's worth (about a teaspoon, or 2,300mg) of sodium.
This is a novel policy, the first of this kind to post an image warning consumers about the sodium level in foods. Not surprising that NYC is the first out of the gate on this given their other healthy eating initiatives (menu labeling and an attempt at soda size limits, for starters).
We'll see how it works, if it changes behavior and how industry reacts. If it's like menu labeling at all, we may see restaurant offerings change to fall below the threshold. Although the cutoff seems appropriate, it's already significantly higher than the recommended 1,500mg per day for older adults, those with high blood pressure, African Americans and many others who for one reason or another need to keep their sodium levels in check.
Will consumers care about the sodium in their food? Will industry reformulate their products? If so, will they reformulate so they fall just below the 2,300 red flag? Certainly a 2,200 mg of sodium dish is nothing to jump up and down about - let's hope there are increasingly more options well below this number.
As this Center for Science in the Public Interest article notes, progress is being made but there is still a LONG way to go. After all, as the article states, "At P.F. Chang's, an order of Dan Dan Noodles has 6,190 mg of sodium and a bowl of Hot & Sour Soup has 7,980 mg, according to the chain’s website. "
Let's hope the progress continues. No doubt there are critics - the salt industry being one, of course - but perhaps the continued demand for healthier, lower sodium options can continue to show restaurants that their bottom line won't be affected with slow and steady change.
For more information from the NYC Department of Health, take a look at this overview.