New York City’s chain restaurants failed last week in their effort to overturn a city rule requiring warning about high-sodium menu items.
The New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division upheld the rules set by the city’s Board of Health, finding that it was “well within its authority” to require warnings about menu items that contained more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, the federally recommended daily allowance.
The warning must also include: “High sodium intake can increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease or stroke." Restaurants that violate the rule may be fined $200.
The suit challenging the rule was brought by the National Restaurant Association, whose executive vice president, Cicely Simpson, called local mandates “a costly and onerous burden on all New York City restaurateurs.” She said her organization preferred to inform consumers through a uniformed national menu standard set to go into effect this year.
The association had argued that the Board of Health overstepped its legal authority and that the sodium regulations violated the free speech rights of franchisees because the government was compelling scientifically controversial speech, forcing them to post a warning that was not an objective fact.
The court disagreed on all counts and said the weight of scientific evidence showed that the information contained in the warning labels was "factual, accurate and uncontroversial.”
The American Heart Association (AHA), which filed an amicus brief, said the decision was a “victory for consumers.”
AHA CEO Nancy Brown called it “a welcome resolution to more than a year of debates over whether or not certain chain restaurants in New York City should inform patrons about high sodium content in their foods.”
Brown said the rule will empower New Yorkers to make better choices about the foods they eat and will help them lower their risk of high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.