PHILADELPHIA–Some restaurants in Philadelphia that serve high-sodium items will now have warning labels alerting patrons that they may be consuming more than an entire day’s worth of sodium in just one dish. Chains with more than 15 locations nationwide are required to post a red or black “Sodium Warning” label alongside menu items or combo meals with more than 2,300 mg of sodium, the maximum amount recommended for daily consumption. The Health Department also launched a new advertising campaign and website to help inform the public of the new warning labels. The legislation, introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown, was signed by Mayor Jim Kenney on September 14, 2018, and goes into effect on Saturday.

Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley said, “For years, healthcare providers have told patients suffering from hypertension and heart disease to cut back on sodium in their diet, and they have listened and put the salt shakers away. We now know, however, that the largest source of sodium in American’s diets are in packaged and restaurant foods. These warning labels will help Philadelphians take charge of their diet and make the right choices for their health.”

The City is spending $50,000 on an advertising campaign imploring the public to “Watch the salt. Look for the label.” These ads show the high sodium warning label next to foods which may be high in sodium. They will be featured on social media, busses, digital billboards, and radio. The Health Department’s GetHealthyPhilly program released a new website on the sodium warning labels with information for both the public and retailers.

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown stated, “With nearly a half-million Philadelphians suffering from hypertension, and communities of color bearing a disproportionate burden of that diagnosis, it is imperative that restaurants provide customers the information that they need to make better, more healthy food choices.”

Research has shown that Americans eat an average of 3,400 mg of sodium per day, while both the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans and American Heart Association recommend eating less than 2,300 mg. Consuming too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which can raise your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and cutting back on sodium has been shown to lower a person’s blood pressure and reduce the risk.

Some businesses have been granted up to a six-month extension for complying with the new bill. Health Department inspectors, as part of their normal food safety inspections will be checking for compliance and can issue a ticket for up to $250. The Health Department reported that many restaurant chains have requested images of the sodium warning for printing purposes and some restaurants are already in compliance.