Some folks are feeling a little salty about last week’s turn of events in the New York City sodium labeling ordinance saga.
On May 26, 2016, a New York state appellate court lifted a temporary stay on New York City’s sodium labeling ordinance. The ordinance, passed unanimously in September 2015 by New York City’s Board of Health, requires restaurants (and other food service establishments) with fifteen or more locations nationwide to post a salt-shaker symbol next to menu items that contain 2,300 milligrams (mg) or more of sodium (the daily recommended intake). Covered restaurants must also conspicuously post at the point of purchase a warning that states: “Warning: 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.”
The National Restaurant Association (NRA), which filed a lawsuit in December challenging the ordinance, filed a motion for a temporary stay and preliminary injunction earlier this year. The temporary stay was granted one day before the ordinance was set to take effect in March. Last week’s one-page order removing the temporary stay also denied the NRA’s motion for a preliminary injunction. This means that while the NRA is appealing the ruling, restaurants must come into compliance with the ordinance unless and until the appeal holds otherwise.
The fine for not complying with the ordinance is $200. While that may not seem like a strong deterrent, according to Thomas Merrill, general counsel of the New York City Department of Health, restaurants also risk losing their health permits if they do not comply with the labeling ordinance.
Enforcement begins Monday, June 6.