New York City health officials calling for high-sodium warning labels on restaurant menus

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AJ Ross has the story from Midtown. (WABC)

New York City could become the first city in the U.S. to require a warning label on high-sodium menu items at chain restaurants.

The city's Health Department tells The Associated Press it will propose Wednesday that all chain restaurants add a symbol resembling a salt shaker on menus next to food products that contain more than the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium, equal to about 1 teaspoon of salt.

Despite the recommendation of experts on salt intake, only one in ten Americans currently follow those guidelines.

Sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Studies have found that the vast majority of dietary salt comes from processed and restaurant foods.

Average sodium consumption is about 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day.

Most people we talked to say they wouldn't mind the new salt shaker symbols the city's health department plans to reveal.

But the president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, Melissa Fleischut, took issue with the proposal, saying: "The restaurants in New York City are already heavily regulated at every level. Federal law already mandates that restaurants provide sodium level information to consumers upon request and this proposal would only add to the mountain of red tape these establishments have to deal with. With separate labeling laws currently in the legislative houses and on the books at the state, federal and local levels, the composition of menus may soon have more warning labels than food products."

To give you a better breakdown of just what you're putting in your body, a burger and fries at a popular fast food chain adds up to more than 1,300 milligrams of salt, which is more than half the daily recommended amount according to

"These are single items that have as much salt as it's recommended you eat in a whole day in a single item, and the icon will help you identify these so you can make a decision on whether or not you should select that item," said New York City Health Commissioner Mary Travis Bassett.

Mayor de Blasio defended the city's warning label plan, issuing the following statement: "Excess sodium intake is dangerous and linked to increased blood pressure and risk of heart disease and stroke. The sodium warning label is part of this administration's comprehensive strategy to lower the City's premature mortality rate by 25 percent by 2040 and decrease disparities among racial and ethnic groups. With this warning label, we can increase awareness about the risks of high sodium intake in an effort to reduce chronic diseases in New York City."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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