LISTEN LIVE KPR - On Air: Listen Live to classical, jazz and NPR news Schedule LATEST
KPR 2 - On Air: Listen live to KPR's all talk-radio service, KPR2 Recordings

Share this page              

High-Sodium Warnings Hit New York City Menus

That black triangle icon is a sodium warning label next to a dish on the menu at an Applebee's in New York City. Starting Tuesday, the city's Health Department is requiring chain restaurants with 15 or more locations to display the salt shaker icon next to menu items containing 2,300 mg or more of sodium — the recommended daily limit.

A new sodium warning requirement goes into effect in New York City restaurants Tuesday: Diners who eat at chain restaurants will now see warnings on menus next to items that contain high levels of salt.

From now on, the New York City Health Department says chain restaurants with 15 or more locations must display a salt shaker icon next to menu items or combo meals that contain 2,300 milligrams of sodium or more.

That's the recommended daily limit for sodium, but most Americans consume far more. And top contributors are foods we tend to eat when we're dining out, including pizza and deli sandwiches.

In fact, surprisingly, they're among the six most popular foods that add unexpectedly high levels of sodium to our diet, according to the American Heart Association. Store-bought bread – which many of us eat several times a day — is another big offender.

Check out this infographic, which shows that, when you add up the slices of bread, cured turkey meat and cheese, a sandwich could serve up some 1,500 mg of sodium – more than half the recommended daily limit.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer watchdog group in Washington, D.C., has identified other meals that can be real sodium bombs, too. For instance, at Red Lobster, diners have the option of creating a combo meal of fried shrimp, french fries, a cheese biscuit, pasta and Caesar salad that has more than 6,000 mg of sodium. That's about three days' worth of sodium.

New York City is the first city in the U.S. to require a sodium warning. The rule applies to restaurants with 15 locations anywhere in the U.S. — not just in the city. Restaurants will have until March 1 to comply. After that, they can be fined.

Deputy health commissioner Sonia Angell — who is also a physician — says many people don't understand the link between excessive sodium intake, high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.

"The majority of salt in our diet doesn't come from the salt shaker — it's already in the food when we purchase it," Angell says. That includes restaurant food. "And that makes restaurants a really important place to give people guidance about how they might be making decisions — if they choose to do so — that might protect their health and their heart."

Robin Vitale, senior director of government relations at the American Heart Association, cheered the health department's new requirement. "The American Heart Association is thrilled for the pending implementation of the Sodium Warning Label rule," she said in a statement. "Americans are consuming dangerous levels of sodium, most often found in processed or restaurant food. This rule will help to increase transparency. "

Zane Tankel, CEO of Apple-Metro, owner of Applebee's restaurants in New York City, says his company is on board.

"We want our guests to have as much information as needed to make informed decisions when dining in our restaurants," Tankel said in a statement.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

Tower Frequencies

91.5 FM KANU Lawrence, Topeka, Kansas City
89.7 FM KANH Emporia
99.5 FM K258BT Manhattan
97.9 FM K250AY Manhattan (KPR2)
91.3 FM  KANV Junction City, Olsburg
89.9 FM K210CR Atchison
90.3 FM KANQ Chanute
96.1 FM K241AR Lawrence (KPR2)

See the Coverage Map for more details

Contact Us

Kansas Public Radio
1120 West 11th Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Download Map
785-864-4530 (Main Line)
888-577-5268 (Toll Free)