Salt Rules of New York City: Regulating Sodium Intake
Salt is perhaps the most controversial chemical in our lives. On one hand, it is a necessary ingredient to everyday life, helping our body function day after day. It helps us digest and think, and it’s indispensable for a series of basic functions to sustain us.
On the other hand, though, it can be extremely harmful when consumed in excess – abusing salt can lead to a serious chemical imbalance in our body, can harm our circulatory system, and ultimately cause our early demise. This is why keeping our salt – sodium – intake between the recommended limits is essential.
The authorities of New York City have decided to help its residents keep their sodium consumption at bay. As sodium is among the two substances over-consumed by the American public (the other is saturated fat), the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has launched an initiative to reduce its consumption. To this end, it has ruled that chain restaurants have to “post warning labels next to menu items that contain high levels of sodium”. The proposal, passed unanimously by the New York City Board of Health, applies to all restaurants with 15 or more locations nationwide.
The initiative is not singular, but a part of a National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI). With over 95 participants – national, state and local health organizations – the NSRI plans to reduce the salt contents of 62 categories of packed foods and 25 categories of restaurant foods. Companies can sign on to the initiative, pledging to meet the relevant target for salt content in its products. And companies have indeed signed up with the NSRI – on the list of supporters we can find brands like Kraft, Heinz, Starbucks, Subway, Unilever, Campbell Soup Company or FreshDirect.
The recommended maximum daily sodium intake is 2,300 milligrams (the equivalent of 6 tablespoons of salt). But we usually consume much more of it. A recent study commissioned by the New York Department of Health has measured the daily sodium intake of locals, and has found that the average daily intake was 3,239 milligrams, or over 8 tablespoons. In short, much more than the recommended maximum.
This is not the first initiative of the New York authorities to preserve the health and wellbeing of its residents. It has in the past succeeded to enforce the listing of calorie counts – in a typeface at least as large as the name of the food – on menus, and to force trans fats – one of the most harmful fatty acids used by the food industry – out of restaurants. It has planned to limit the maximum size of sugary drinks allowed to be sold, but it failed at that – the intense campaigning of soda companies has curbed this initiative.
The consumption of salty foods is an acquired taste – and so is a low-salt diet. According to a recent study, people will grow to like lower levels of foods in their diet, successfully reducing their sodium intake in the long term.