The food fight continues over New York City's regulation for chain restaurants to put a warning label on certain items.
For more than a year now, the New York City Board of Health has called for chain restaurants to update their menus and put a "salt shaker" icon next to anything with more than a full day's recommended dose of sodium. That amount is considered to be 2,300 milligrams – or about a teaspoon.
Despite challenges from the National Restaurant Association that the Board overstepped its authority and violated the free-speech rights of restaurant owners, a state appeals court said the regulation is legal.
"The judge finally determined that it was okay procedurally for the Health Department to be able to make such a rule," says Jeff Stier, a New Yorker and senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research. "The judge also suggested that maybe it's not such a bad idea, but certainly the judge does not have the expertise or the information available to decide it on that merit – and in fact, the courts are not meant to decide such things."
Meanwhile, Stier finds irony in the timing of the court's decision.
"Just last month, the Competitive Enterprise Institute put out a paper on salt and concluded – consistent with the other evidence that I've seen – that we shouldn't be too worried about salt consumption as a population," he explains. "Our salt consumption throughout history and throughout the world is pretty static: it doesn't change much – we apparently need a certain amount of salt."
Stier acknowledges there are people with high blood pressure who may need to reduce salt intake.
"But that doesn't apply for everyone and usually you don't need medication," he continues. "For the judge to somehow say that it is a good idea to have these salt warning labels at certain restaurants really flies in the face of the face of science – and to suggest that we all need to be limiting our salt intake coming down as a government standard for warning labels really misdirects our public health priorities."
Even then, Stier points out that high-end restaurants aren't being forced to comply, and argues that putting another warning on something may result in people not paying attention to labels at all.