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NYC Could Become First City In U.S. To Require High-Sodium Warning Labels On Menus

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Pass the salt, please.

Well, maybe not.

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

The city's Health Department announced a proposal 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.

NYC Could Become First City In U.S. To Require High-Sodium Warning Labels On Menus

Sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attack 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," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "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."

"This is not telling anybody what they should or shouldn't eat; it's giving them information," city Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett told WCBS 880's Alex Silverman.

Bassett said a heart patient, for example, has no way of knowing which foods have more salt than others.

"We want people to have some information about items that have a very high salt content when they look at a menu board, and make a choice," Bassett told 1010 WINS.

The American Heart Association applauded the decision and said it sees the proposal as an opportunity to help people make more informed food choices while eating out so they can "live a healthier life."

"Any meaningful strategy to reduce sodium intake at the population level and improve the health of all Americans must involve the efforts of government officials, food manufacturers, food processors and the restaurant industry," said Nancy Brown, American Heart Association CEO. "The Association hopes these kinds of warning labels will lead to more industry innovation and consumer empowerment."

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

NYC Could Become First City In U.S. To Require High-Sodium Warning Labels On Menus

Marion Nestle, a nutrition and public health professor at NYU, said the move could encourage restaurants, especially fast food chains, to cut the salt.

"If people start avoiding those because they've got the warning label on them, I think the companies will get the message very fast," she said.

But Lionel told 1010 WINS' Sonia Rincon he wants to skip the guilt trip.

"I'm a salt person. I'm a salt fanatic," he said. "They say it's not good for me, but I just can't help it sometimes."

And Javier said he doesn't think the warning will make anyone more conscious.

"People who care about it, they'll realize it; people who don't will just keep going at it," he said.

Average sodium consumption is about 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day. Only about one in 10 Americans meets the 1-teaspoon guideline.

The city's Board of Health will have the final say on the proposal after a public comment period.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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