Paul Frumkin reports at Nation’s Restaurant News that in an effort to reduce the amount of sodium in consumers’ diets, New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has introduced a bill that would ban the use of salt in the preparation of restaurant food across the state.
Ortiz, a Democrat and a longtime proponent of menu labeling, said in his written introduction to the salt ban bill that it would give more control to restaurant customers by allowing them to add salt to their own meals after they have been prepared.
“In this way, consumers have more control over the amount of sodium they intake, and are given the option to exercise healthier diets and healthier lifestyles,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz cited a report by the World Health Organization showing that at least three-quarters of the sodium consumed in the United States comes from prepared or restaurant foods.
“Studies have also proven that lowering the amount of salt people eat, even by small amounts, could reduce cases of heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks as much as reductions in smoking, obesity, and cholesterol levels,” he said.
Ortiz did not return calls for further comment by press time.
Long an advocate of reducing the amount of sodium in the American diet, Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest did not endorse Ortiz’s proposal.
“Limiting sodium requires more a scalpel than a meat axe,” Jacobson said. “New York City’s proposed targets or strict limits for different categories of food makes more sense. The upcoming report from the Institute of Medicine likely will set the boundaries for debate and provide the Food and Drug Administration with a basis for mounting a national initiative.”
New York City’s health department in January introduced the National Salt Reduction Initiative, a voluntary measure that seeks to cut the levels of sodium in restaurant and packaged foods by 20 percent over the next five years.
The initiative is a partnership between New York City’s Board of Health, 17 national health organizations and 26 cities, including Los Angeles and Seattle.
Melissa Fleischut, vice president of the New York State Restaurant Association in Albany, said Ortiz “doesn’t seem to have all the facts about how salt is used in restaurants and how it is necessary to food preparation.”
“We’ll have to schedule talks with him and try to explain,” she added.
Ortiz’s bill has two sponsors so far: Margaret Markey and N. Nick Perry, both Democrats. There is no companion bill in the Senate currently.
Read more: Nation’s Restaurant News