PHILADELPHIA – Calling it an important step forward for public health, Mayor Jim Kenney signed legislation today requiring chain restaurants to place warning labels next to each menu item containing 2,300 or more milligrams of sodium – the amount in about a teaspoon of salt – which is the maximum recommended total sodium intake for an entire day.

“Of the nation’s 10 largest cities, Philadelphia has the highest rate of high blood pressure,” said Mayor Kenney. “Decreasing sodium consumption has the potential to lower high blood pressure rates by 25 percent, preventing hundreds of deaths a year from heart attack and stroke.”

The measure requires chain restaurants to place clearly visible sodium warning labels next to or directly under the name of each menu item containing 2,300 mg or more of sodium.

Sodium Warning Label

“Nearly all of us consumes far too much sodium,” said Dr. Thomas A. Farley, Philadelphia’s health commissioner. “And contrary to what most people think, most of the sodium we eat comes from packaged and restaurant foods, not from the salt shaker at home.  This law gives consumers who are trying to cut their sodium intake the information they need to make healthier choices.”

The average American consumes 3,400 mg of sodium per day, well above the recommended upper limit of 2,300 mg. High sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure, which increases stroke and heart disease risk.

Passed unanimously by City Council, the measure was introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown.

“This is a proud moment for Philadelphia as we become the second city in the country that has intentionally and strategically expanded our sodium menu labeling legislation,” said Councilwoman Reynolds-Brown. “It is incredibly empowering to all Philadelphia’s consumers to know exactly, and quite literally, what they are consuming, especially when their menu choices can negatively affect their health. Our city’s population ranks among the highest at-risk for premature heart disease among big cities in the United States, with even higher rates in the African American community. For far too long, sodium has been an invisible factor for restaurant consumers and that is not something Philadelphia can afford.”

While the sodium labeling law takes effect today, the City won’t start enforcing the new rules until September 14, 2019. The Department of Health will issue no-fine warnings until December 14, 2019, after which date the city will issue tickets that include fines. Those businesses unable to meet the compliance deadline, may apply for a six-month extension.

The new law applies to any chain retail food establishment, including, but not limited to restaurants, convenience stores, delis, bakeries, grocery store food counters and coffee shops.