Is the new NYC 'sodium mandate' worth its salt?

New York City's "sodium mandate" isn't legal... yet.

A week ago, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that restaurant chains in New York City can be fined if they don't follow Heath Board's sodium warning mandate, the first such mandate in the US.

But on February 29th, another NYC justice temporarily prohibited the the city's health department from enforcing the measure. If deemed legal, the sodium warning mandate would require restaurants with 15 or more locations across the US to put a logo (a saltshaker encased in a black triangle) next to any menu item that contains more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, the daily limit nutritionists recommend.

CSPI points to Panera Bread's Bacon Turkey Bravo on Tomato Basil bread with 2,920 mg of sodium

The measure was unanimously passed last year by the health board. Restaurants that don't comply with the measure can be fined up to $600. The mandate is another governmental attempt to help inform citizens about the some of the serious health consequences of what they eat.

If your meal has so much sodium that it merits a salt shaker on the menu, then – for the sake of your health – order something else.
— Bill de Blasio, NYC Mayor

The National Restaurant Association is hoping to stop the measure, saying that "the sodium mandate" lacks proper input from the local hospitality industry. You could say they feel a-salted by the measure.

Salt puns are also bad for your health

Salt puns are also bad for your health, we know.

Despite the NRA's outcry several chains such as Subway, TGI Fridays, Applebee's and Regal Entertainment have already begun abiding by the rule, however.

What it means for the restaurant industry

While this ruling will only directly affect restaurants in NYC, it's reflective a larger movement in the US. People are more conscious of their health.

For better or worse, health mandates like this are part of doing business in the hospitality industry nowadays. More and more consumers want to know what they're putting into their bodies and the government is happy to oblige. It's an issue that bars and restaurants need to seriously consider when putting together their menus and building their business plans.

Can you serve great tasting meals without needing to use so much sodium that it's preserved for the next decade? Maybe you can, maybe you can't. Do you even care if your restaurant scares off potential customers because what you're making is terrible for their health? Or do you want to be seen as a place where folks can go to have a great tasting meal that's also not going to shorten their lives?

Salt shooter

If this movement concerns you, you need to act. You need to evaluate what you're serving and how it'll be perceived by the public. You put time and energy into creating a great tasting menu and using the best ingredients, right? Do the same with things like your sodium and sugar levels, too. Even if you decide not to act, at least you'll have a good understanding of where your restaurant lies.

If you're not a health conscious restaurant, more power to you. There are still plenty of people who don't mind clogging their arteries with unhealthy but yummy food once in a while (author included). You run your business the way you feel best. Just expect to not get the full reach of your potential consumer base because of it.

As for this ruling in NYC, the mandate will go before panel of appellate court judges who will decide whether or not to grant the NRA’s motion for a preliminary injunction of the mandate’s enforcement.