NYC gets OK to issue salt fines during appeal

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City plans to start enforcing a first-of-its-kind requirement for chain restaurants to use icons to warn patrons of salty foods after getting an appeals court's go-ahead Thursday to start issuing fines. But it's not the final word on whether the regulation will stand.

The novel rule took effect in December, and some eateries already have added the requisite salt-shaker-like icons to menu items that contain more salt than doctors recommend ingesting in an entire day.

But penalties have been in limbo as the National Restaurant Association fights the measure in court. That clash is ongoing, but an appeals court Thursday lifted a temporary hold on issuing the fines while the case plays out. Fines can be up to $600.

The city will start enforcing the rule June 6.

Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio applauded the appeals court's decision on what he called "a common-sense regulation that will help New Yorkers make better decisions and lead healthier lives." The city won the first round of the lawsuit in a trial court in February; the restaurant association appealed.

The group called on the city Thursday to delay enforcement voluntarily until the appeal is resolved.

"Today's decision ... will force the men and women that own New York City's restaurants to start complying with this unlawful and unprecedented sodium mandate before the court has the chance to rule on the merits of our appeal," the organization said in a statement.

The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, while the recommended limit is 2,300 mg, or about a teaspoon. Experts say eating too much salt, over time, can increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Pointing to such restaurant fare as cheddar bacon burgers with nearly 4,300 milligrams of salt and boneless Buffalo chicken salads with more than 3,000milligrams, New York City officials say the warnings help make diners aware of how much sodium they're consuming.

But the restaurant association argues the city should leave nutritional warnings up to federal regulators and that there's disagreement among scientists about how much salt is too much. The group also argues the city's requirement violates restaurateurs' free-speech rights.

The regulation applies to the New York City locations of restaurants and fast-food places with more than 15 outlets nationwide.

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Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jennpeltz .

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