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Philly’s salt-warning mandate takes effect

Chain restaurants are required to flag menu items that contain at least 2,300 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Chain restaurants in Philadelphia will be required starting Sept. 14 to post a symbol on their menus to flag items containing 2,300 milligrams or more of sodium.

The obligation applies to local branches of any chain with at least 15 units nationwide, according to the law that was passed a year ago. It extends to online menus on the chain or restaurant’s website, but the warning is not required on the menus posted on the websites or apps of third-party delivery services such as Uber Eats or Grubhub, according to Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health.

The requirements are the same as ones that were adopted in New York City in 2015.

The law requiring the black or red warnings—a triangular icon showing a saltshaker accompanied by the words, “Sodium warning”—was passed as a way of combating high blood pressure. The average intake of sodium by Philadelphia residents is among the highest in the nation, according to local health experts.The American Heart Association recommends that Americans lessen their risk of coronary and vascular diseases by keeping their daily sodium consumption below 2,300 milligrams. The average per capita intake is 3,400, according to the Department of Health.

The warning has to be included in close proximity to the name of any menu item containing more than 2,300 milligrams per serving. Shareable items that pack more than that amount of salt are excused if the per-portion level is less than 2,300 milligrams. In the example provided by the health department, a pizza containing at least that amount of sodium would still be exempted if the reasonable per-person portion falls below the threshold.

The department said it will not levy monetary penalties on restaurants that fail to meet the new requirements until Dec. 14. After that, places that are not abiding will be issued a ticket and required to pay a penalty on what is apparently a sliding scale. 

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