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Warning Labels for Sodium Content Required in Chain Restaurants


AGRAWAL: At a Panera Bread in midtown on Friday morning, customers were picking up coffee, pastries and breakfast sandwiches as they headed into buildings nearby. They didn’t know about the new law, but Stacy Jean-Philippe and Ryan Cerqeira thought it sounded like a pretty good idea.

VOX : That should happen. That’s definitely important for people that have high blood pressure and other conditions.

I feel like they should mainly because I stay on a diet and I have to know.

AGRAWAL: The warning label is in the shape of a black-and-white triangle with a picture of a salt shaker on it. It’s supposed to let consumers know which menu items have more than twenty-three hundred milligrams of sodium–the recommended daily limit. Tony Corley is the kitchen manager at an Applebee’s in Times Square. He said his restaurant started putting the new labels on menus last fall.

CORLEY: We always try to be preemptive.

AGRAWAL: Personally, he says he doesn’t need a warning.

CORLEY: Salt is already a black man’s enemy, so I don’t need no sign for that.

AGRAWAL: But advocates in favor of the new labels hope they will reduce salt consumption.

O’HARA: Most of the sodium that Americans consume comes from food where the sodium has already been added. Clearly the chain restaurants, they’re delivering a lot of the sodium to Americans.

AGRAWAL: That’s Jim O’Hara, director of health promotion policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

O’HARA: The consumption of excess salt leads to high blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a known risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

AGRAWAL: Even if the label doesn’t change behaviors right away, O’Hara says it will still serve an important purpose.

O’HARA: It gives consumers the information to make informed choices. If you eat that single dish, you’ve already consumed as much sodium as you should in a day.

AGRAWAL: O’Hara also says the new law will give restaurants an incentive to change–like by cutting down the amount of salt on their menus. For now, New Yorkers can still enjoy the salty treats they love in blissful ignorance. The city won’t begin enforcing the new law with fines until March 1st. Nina Agrawal, Columbia Radio News.


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