Food Fights

A New Report Could Put an End to Menu Salt Warnings

Okay after all?
Okay after all? Photo: Meliha Gojak/Getty Images

One week before the National Restaurant Association’s lawyers have to go before a judge and prove the Health Department’s new salt mandate is “completely arbitrary in its scope, reach, and application,” a trio of influential researchers have dropped a paper arguing there’s technically no scientific consensus that sodium is bad for people’s health. Two of the authors are professors at Columbia, and the third is an ex member of none other than the Board of Health itself. They analyzed more than 35 years of literature on sodium for their paper, and they say that while they found two divergent schools of thought, there was no conclusive evidence that reducing salt intake leads to more favorable health outcomes.

“We documented a strong polarization of scientific reports on the link between sodium intake and clinical outcomes in populations, and a pattern of uncertainty in published systematic reviews,” they write, using the word jarring to describe the gap between the uncertainty they observed in the scientific community and the certainty shown by public-health officials.

The paper doesn’t go the extra step of extrapolating this to the current legal fight, but the NRA’s legal team certainly won’t hesitate to, even for a second. The restaurateurs the group represents argue adding the salt-warning emblem on menus is going to be costly, singles them out unfairly, and violates the First Amendment — most of the same arguments they used to crush Bloomberg’s soda ban. City officials, who may be infuriated by the timing of this paper, have given restaurants around town until March 1 to conform to the new rule.


Report Says Salt Warnings Aren’t Based on Science