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Free Minds & Free Markets

Suit Halts New York City's Misguided Restaurant Salt Warning Labels

A judge stopped mandatory labels, which had been set to take full effect this week.

SaltCredit: TooFarNorth / photo on flickrLast fall, New York City's health department adopted the nation's first and only salt warning scheme. The rules, which apply only to chain restaurants, require warnings on most menu items that contain more than 2,300 mg sodium.

At the time of their adoption, Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association, called the rules "just the latest in a long litany of superfluous hoops that restaurants here in New York must jump through."

The National Restaurant Association soon sued to overturn the law. Last month, a judge ruled against the group. City health inspectors had been set to start issuing $200 fines for violations of the rule on March 1.

But this week, an appellate court issued a stay that will prevent the city from implementing the rules, for the time being at least. And, let's hope, for good.

Bizarrely, New York City chose to erect rules targeting salt even as the basis for those laws is increasingly viewed by leading scientific experts as backward and even harmful. As I recently detailed, the science that allegedly underpins salt warning labels appears, charitably, to be largely unsettled.

"For years government dietary advice has urged Americans to avoid salt," I wrote. "But it's becoming clearer that policies pertaining to salt reflect old science at best and bad science at worst."

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the federal government's health watchdog, changed its salt recommendations years ago.

"According to new CDC guidelines," Medical Daily reported in 2013, "it's a waste of time and even harmful to reduce one's salt intake too much."

At best, New York City's salt warning labels reflect outdated scientific beliefs. But even if the science were solid, the rules would still be problematic. For example, in suing the city, the National Restaurant Association rightly called the rules "arbitrary and capricious" and "filled with irrational exclusions and nonsensical loopholes."

They're right. Chief among these issues is that the rule only applies to chain restaurants. McDonald's? Yes. TGI Friday's? Yes. 7-Eleven? No. Momofuku? No.

By referring to the salt rules as "renegade regulating," the the National Restaurant Association invoked memories of the city's short-lived soda ban, which was overturned by the state's highest court in 2014, the third court in the state in a row to find the rules unconstitutional.

The rules also conflict with existing menu labeling rules in the city. While the salt rule is intended as a warning—it requires that a black triangle with a salt shaker in the center of the triangle be placed "next to any food item that has 2,300 mg of sodium or more"—the city's mandatory menu calorie labeling is intended to provide calorie information, rather than to warn. Yet consumers could hardly be faulted for being frustrated and confused by the display of a pair of menu mandates—a salt warning that provides no numerical data, and numerical calorie data that provides no warning—appearing alongside one another.

The salt warnings may also conflict with federal menu labeling rules that are set to take effect later this year. One legal-news website implied this week that the rules may be preempted by federal law.

"Unlike New York City's rule," JD Supra reported, "the federal law would not require restaurants to post sodium content on menus." Some recent U.S. Supreme Court food-labeling decisions have overturned state laws that conflicted with federal laws.

And then there's the question of whether all these menu labels really do one bit of good. An Associated Press report this week on New York City's salt warnings noted that customers at several restaurants in the city "said the labels were unlikely to change what they ordered." That's consistent with studies on the impact of menu labeling in general, as I've detailed numerous times.

I have no opinion about the amount of salt you should consume. That's up to you and your family, doctor, and anyone you choose to let cook your food. But I've got lots of opinions about government warnings about salt when those warnings rely on bad or outdated science in an attempt to scare consumers in ways even the CDC admits may cause harm. New York City must scrap these rules, or a court will do it for them.

Photo Credit: TooFarNorth / photo on flickr

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  • Adans smith||

    I waiting for them to want a scull and cross bones on many foods.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Eh? Bad for rowers and doctors?

  • Adans smith||

    And salt beef and fish.

  • Jerryskids||

    He's an angry skeleton.

  • Trigger Hippie||

    Do you want to unknowingly consume food produced by Black Bart? DO YOU?!

  • Adans smith||

    Be better than eating at Chipolte's.

  • Trigger Hippie||

    Have you not heard? New at Chipotle's, the Jolly Roger ham hock burrito bowl! Give it a whirl!

  • Adans smith||

    Do they serve grogg?

  • Trigger Hippie||

    Of course. How else is one able to stave off scurvy?

  • Adans smith||

    Does porter and stout count,if so,I'm good.

  • Trigger Hippie||

    If you haven't tried it already, give Anchor Porter a go. One of my favorites.

  • Adans smith||

    Have,like it,and Samuel Smith oatmeal stout is very good.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Bizarrely, New York City chose to erect rules targeting salt even as the basis for those laws is increasingly viewed by leading scientific experts as backward and even harmful.

    You can't level the charge of anti-science to well meaning central planners! Only certain flavors of deniers deserve that scorn.

  • Jerryskids||

    Bizzarrely, yes. Very bizzare that control freaks want to control freakishly.

    Just like it's "surprising" that central planners want to plan centrally.

    To a surprising extent, the economic vision unveiled by Mr. Li echoed policies in the United States, the European Union and Japan, all of which have depended heavily on their central banks to expand money supply and keep growth aloft.

    Surprisingly, it doesn't work.

  • Jerryskids||

    I really liked this, too:

    China’s central government has a fairly low debt by international standards; it is the country’s corporate sector and local governments that are deeply indebted. But the Ministry of Finance has nonetheless been reluctant to allow a large, persistent deficit to form, particularly as China may yet face very heavy costs to help banks with the costs of large loans to nearly insolvent state-owned enterprises.

    It's not China's government going into debt to keep unnecessary businesses using unnecessary labor pumping out unneccesary goods, it's that other government and the state-owned businesses doing it all on their own.

  • Adans smith||

    Something ,something,real estate bubble ,ghost cities.roads ,trains and buildings falling apart, $6000 average medium income crony military.

  • Adans smith||

    They need to do it harder,with no lube.

  • Adans smith||

    You mean like the anti meat people who believe in evolution but deny that humans have evolved to be omnivores?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Maybe so, but man didn't evolve into salt eaters. THAT'S A PURELY HUMAN INVENTION.

  • Florida Man||

    You can set a baboon trap using salt. Then the baboon will lead you to his water hoard.

  • Lee G||

    Is that a Florida thing?

    Great, pythons and baboons

  • Florida Man||

    We have macaques now. Would you like to see macaque?

  • Adans smith||

    Do you eat the brains for knowledge ?

  • Florida Man||

    No, for protein and CJD.

  • Adans smith||

    I don't want to know what you do with the penis.

  • Libertarian||

    Jamaica?

  • Cdr Lytton||

    I thought the Great Hope was going to end water hoarding and other enhanced ingestion methods. Or are we still outsourcing those to blue bottle sites?

  • Adans smith||

    He did,with drones.

  • Adans smith||

    Blame the Romans.They paid their Legions partially in salt,hence 'worth your salt'.Ant they were white.

  • Florida Man||

    Italians aren't white!

  • Adans smith||

    All Europeans are now white.'didn't you get the memo'?

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Including the Irish and Spainish descended?

  • Adans smith||

    No,not the one's in South America,just in Europe and people who came here from Europe.Europe people bad,unless they still live in Europe.Then ,good socialist. I'm Irish ,Welsh and some Cherokee.

  • Ted S.||

    And the word "salary".

  • Florida Man||

    No way?!?

    *mind blown*

  • jerryg1018||

    Sodium occurs naturally in many foods man eats. Man simply discovered that adding more enhanced the taste of food.

  • Hyperbolical||

    And there's the problem. Making something better is the same as profiting. Thus added salt is bad.

    /progressive

  • Florida Man||

    They taught a lion to eat tofu!

  • Jerryskids||

    Lions can be taught to eat tofu. As long as it's tucked inside a tofu-eating vegetarian.

    Two lions are walking along and the second one suddenly licks the first one's asshole. "Hey! Knock it off! What the hell are you doing licking my asshole?" says the first one. "Sorry", says the second one, "I just ate a hippie and I'm trying to get the taste out of my mouth."

  • Florida Man||

  • Adans smith||

    Cough.cough.

  • Ted S.||

    Kindly turn your head when you cough.

  • Florida Man||

    *cups testicles*

    You're good.

  • BigT||

    Of course they should reduce salt - it's white. Need more pepper, or at least spices of color like red pepper or cumin.

  • Adans smith||

    I use a lot of pepper,it's my bitch.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Sounds like you're its.

  • Florida Man||

    Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich has made me its bitch a few times.

  • Adans smith||

    I like it freshly cracked,

  • Vapourwear||

    All hail the mortar and pestle!

    HAIL!

  • Adans smith||

    Bow to my marble.And,why do all the Greek statues have such small dicks?

  • Swiss Servator||

    Growers, not showers?

  • Whatever Farm Animal Of War||

    Not all of them did. Its just that the big ones are more subject to breakage.

  • ||

    I thought the 'salt is bad' canard had been debunked long ago, and NY is putting this rule into place last fall?

    Genius.

  • Adans smith||

    See:GMO's,fat,beef,cheese and eggs.

  • ||

    ...And butter, and bacon...

  • Adans smith||

    That reminds me,I like to make a bacon wrapped roasted steak finished in a iron skillet on the stove top and roast garlic potato wedges with a blue cheese butter sauce.Maybe tomorrow.

  • ||

    When you finish the steak put half a cup of red wine, half a cup of beef stock, a table spoon of butter and some garlic in the skillet. Swirl it around and deglaze the skillet with that and cook it down to about half the initial volume. It will thicken up a bit and you can tell by the smell when it is right. Put that on your steak.

    The first time I did that I caught my wife literally licking her plate to get all of the sauce.

    Also, speaking of bacon wrapped...try wrapping a couple of stalks of asparagus or whole green beans with a strip of bacon and baking it in the oven.

  • Adans smith||

    Thanks,I will do that,sounds very good.

  • Adans smith||

    [Writes down the recipe.]

  • The Hyperbole||

    I've always been put the butter in after reducing,and turn off heat, don't know if it makes a difference, just my two cents.

  • Adans smith||

    Same here.

  • Whatever Farm Animal Of War||

    Butter has thickening qualities that are diminished by too much cooking and stirring.

  • Swiss Servator||

    *salivates mightily*

  • Adans smith||

    Needs a couple stouts to finish.Then Steely Dan and Irish coffee.

  • ||

    How much you want to bet Bloomberg is the sort of guy who packs on the salt on his french (freedom) fries?

  • ||

    Right. Next you will try to convince me that Diane Feinstein has a concealed carry license.

  • Adans smith||

    She has men with guns to protect her.

  • Adans smith||

    Bloomberg is a garden gnome come to life,the evil kind.

  • Rhywun||

  • Rockabilly||

    Relax comrade citizens, central committee knows what's best for you.

  • Vitae Drinker||

    But if the state doesn't enact arbitrary rules and regulations to control you, who will?

  • Florida Man||

    Lord Humungous?

  • ||

    If NY keeps this up they'll compel restaurants to disclose where an animal on the menu was born, its upbringing and name along with a certificate of authenticity.

    Like a Cabbage Patch doll.

  • ||

    Meat Lambee. She was a cute cow always teasing the others. She was meant to fulfill her role as a flavorful part of your meal. If you close your eyes you can taste her mischievousness! Remember, Nanny Bloomberg says not too much salt!

  • Adans smith||

    My grand father told ,never name your dinner. Then again,I'd shoot Bambi and his mom.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    We used to raise a couple of cattle at a time for our own freezer. They started out with names such Daisy and moved on to Hamburger and Tbone. Either way, they were still delicious.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Speaking of steak, just about to tuck into one with eggs for breakfast.

  • Adans smith||

    Ever order Omaha Steaks? I get their deals now and then and there handy and good meat.

  • Adans smith||

    Ever order Omaha Steaks? I get their deals now and then and there handy and good meat.

  • Rhywun||

    *bookmarking this*

  • Adans smith||

    Vacuum packed,easy to store and well aged.

  • Rhywun||

    I've been enjoying the Stiglmeier Sausage offerings a lot.

  • MSimon||

    Do you have ANY idea who owns that company?

  • Adans smith||

    Who cares,The Kochs?

  • Rich||

    Who cares? The corporate offices are at 10909 John Galt Boulevard. Seriously.

  • Florida Man||

  • straffinrun||

    I always make it until the Fuck off argument switches seamlessly to the utilitarian argument. Even if the new regulations helped, see "fuck off".

  • Robert||

    Why not argue both? Each is backup in case the other fails.

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  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    The only people who probably care are the politicians, the restaurant owners, and their lawyers.

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  • jerryg1018||

    A check of NYC's Health Dept would probably uncover an over bloated agency full of bureaucrats with nothing to do. So managers dream up make busy work writing new, unnecessary regulations.

  • Juice||

    Recently I've been trying different things with my salt levels and it has some interesting effects. I went higher than normal with my salt intake for a few weeks. I gained about 5-6 pounds in water weight and that got me concerned, but I noticed that I had more "energy" during the day. I never really felt tired. I got to sleep at a decent hour and woke up refreshed. But, actually I didn't notice all this until I cut out all of the salt that I usually add to food. I lost that 5 pounds of water in 2 days, but I also started feeling more sluggish and not waking up as easily.

    I think the lesson is clear. Add salt to my food and deal with a little bit of extra water in exchange for feeling a little better all day and getting a better night's rest.

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  • Sagacious1||

    "...a long litany of superfluous hoops that restaurants... must jump through." Exactly so. Too may people with government jobs and nothing useful to do.

  • sarcasmic||

    Ask any chef why restaurant food tastes better than food prepared at home, and you'll get a one-word answer: salt.

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  • Peter||

    Perhaps a water content warning is also needed, since water kills many more than salt every year.

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