Staff Editorial: Sodium label well-intentioned, not enough to alter eating habits

New York City chain restaurants such as Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s are now required to print salt shaker symbols next to menu items that contain more than the daily recommended intake of sodium.

This new law is reminiscent of previous efforts from NYC administration to curb unhealthy eating, such as the failed “soda ban” law that attempted to limit the sale of soft drinks over 16 ounces. A lot of restaurants are already required to disclose the number of calories in menu items, so it seems unsurprising that sodium levels would be the next target for guiding consumers to healthier foods.

It seems that America runs on processed foods and large portion sizes. America has a drastically different food culture than most other countries—especially in Europe—and marking restaurant menus could be a good way to subconsciously direct consumers to better food choices. The restaurants affected by the ban often carry menu items that contain twice the recommended daily intake of sodium in just one meal—which could cause or exacerbate many medical conditions.

Some Americans—like the many New Yorkers who were against the soda ban—believe the new menu requirement is unnecessary and won’t do much to affect people’s health and eating habits. Because this requirement could negatively affect restaurants whose unhealthy food may be exposed, the National Restaurant Association actively disagrees with it.

The requirement, however, may make some consumers aware of sodium levels they didn’t know were problematic or risky. Seeing a high sodium level next to their favorite dish may help educate them and make them think twice about their eating habits. This may harm the reputation of some popular restaurants, though, as it seems aiming to improve the health of consumers goes against capitalist endeavors.

While there could be positive implementations, new government requirements like these will not do anything drastic to help decrease obesity in America or alleviate health issues linked to diets unless they are implemented on a larger scale. Implementing more widespread nutrition education and less expensive access to healthy foods for America’s impoverished families would be better steps toward addressing this country’s health issues and its problem with unhealthy food.