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Chain restaurants in NYC to start putting warnings on extremely salty food this week

A salt shaker symbol for items that exceed the daily limit

Paul Goyette / Wikimedia Commons

Starting Tuesday, chain restaurants in New York City will have to watch their salt. A new rule will require that a salt shaker warning symbol be placed on menu items that exceed the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium — or about a teaspoon of the stuff, the Associated Press reports. Restaurants will also have to post a warning stating that eating large amounts of salt can increase a person's risk of heart disease and stroke.

The salt rule, which was approved by the New York City Board of Health in September, is thought to be the first of its kind in the United States. It will affect chains with at least 15 restaurants across the US, as well as certain movie theaters and concessions stands. The rule's purpose is to help combat heart disease by giving people a better idea of what they're eating. For instance, under the new rule, sandwiches like Quiznos' 12-inch turkey club, which contains 3,390 milligrams of sodium, will have to be presented next to the salt shaker warning. Quiznos 8-inch turkey club, on the other hand, will not have to carry this warning because it contains 2,270 milligrams of sodium — or 30 milligrams less than the daily recommended limit. These numbers are only true in New York City, however. In the rest of the US, the 8-inch and the 12-inch contain larger amounts of sodium; 2,500 milligrams and 3,710 milligrams, respectively. "The recipes have only been changed in the New York City market," a spokesperson for Quiznos told The Verge. This change may mean that the rule is already working as the city intended it to.

Menu items that contain more than a teaspoon of salt

New York City officials hope that the rule will spur other cities to adopt similar guidelines for restaurants. "Many others recognize the important public health impact of excess sodium intake, and I am hopeful that others will follow suit," Mary Bassett, New York City’s health commissioner, said in a news conference in September.

But the salt rule wasn't well received by certain restaurant groups. "I understand the City Board of Health is very pleased to lead the way on these nutritional initiatives," Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association, told The New York Times. "But what we see is that it ends up creating a patchwork of regulations across multiple states." She thinks that sticking to current federal labeling guidelines, which only require calorie counts on certain restaurants' menus, would be better.

The new rule will apply to about 10 percent of menu items served in chain restaurants and at least 15 chains across the US, according to the Associated Press. It takes effect Tuesday, but the city won't hand out fines until March.

Update November 30th, 6:18pm ET: This story has been updated to reflect information provided by Quiznos.