Monday, April 24, 2017

NYC Forces Fast Food to Disclose High Sodium

The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day, which is nearly 50% more than the suggested amount. Studies show that nearly one-third of all the sodium ingested by Americans is from restaurant food. Surveys conducted in New York City and Philadelphia estimate that the salt content in fast food meals served in those cities increased by 23% between 1997 and 2010.

“Enough,” said New York City regulators in 2015. They enacted a law requiring chain restaurants to put a salt-shaker symbol next to any item on the menu that contains more than the recommended daily intake of sodium. Local New York City restaurants that are not part of a chain are not required to comply. This is Big Brotherism to many, and the National Restaurant Association promptly sued to block enforcement of this law. The Association pointed out that the law was irrational for singling out large fast food chains for being burdened by this regulation, while exempting smaller one-of-a-kind restaurants for which New York City is famous.

But the lawsuit failed at the trial court level, and failed again on appeal. Declaring salt to be a “significant health hazard” when consumed in excess, the unanimous five-judge panel of the appellate court sided with the New York City Board of Health (the “Board”). The court ruled that “the Board acted legally, constitutionally, and well within its authority in adopting this limited yet salutary rule.”

This new rule is costly, as most regulations are, and that drives up the price of meals. There’s nothing beneficial about that. And it is controversial whether most Americans are even adversely affected by an increased consumption of sodium. But all Americans are harmed by the higher costs imposed by Big Brother regulations.

The appellate state court in New York justified its ruling by pointing out that the Board has imposed similar regulations. For example, the Board already restricts the use of artificial trans fats and forces chain restaurants to post the calorie contents of menu items.

Adding a little salt to numerous existing regulations was just fine for the unanimous appellate panel, but it is just one more burden that makes it so difficult for businesses to survive.

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