March 12, 2010

Proposed NY Salt Ban Leaves Bad Taste In Chefs’ Mouths

The New York State Assembly is proposing a ban on the use of salt to prepare meals in restaurants, and Big Apple chefs and restaurant owners alike were voicing their displeasure on Thursday.

The legislation, Bill A10129, was proposed by Brooklyn democrat Felix Ortiz on March 5 and states in part: "No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers of such restaurant, including food prepared to be consumed on the premises of such restaurant or off of such premises" and allows for a fine of up to $1,000 for each violation.

"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 lifestyle," Ortiz claimed during a  March 9 interview with Nation's Restaurant News. "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."

However, the salt ban has drawn a considerable amount of criticism. A grassroots campaign calling themselves My Food, My Choice, has started an online petition to "save NYC's incredible and diverse cuisine and protect your right to make your own food choices."

Jeff Nathan, who is an executive chef and co-owner of Abigael's on Broadway as well as a member of My Food, My Choice, recently told Fox 5 News in New York, "The consumer needs to make their own health choices. Just as doctors and the occasional visit to a hospital can't truly control how a person chooses to maintain their health, neither can chefs nor the occasional visit to a restaurant...Regulating restaurants will not solve this health issue."

Just two months ago, the New York City health department introduced a similar but voluntary program, the National Salt Reduction Initiative, which called upon restaurants to cut by 20-percent the amount of sodium in their food before 2015.


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