May 22, 2019 | 66° F

Labeling sodium intake in NYC will not fix US obesity


Recently, New York City decided to play health police again by declaring that restaurants will have to post the sodium content of certain high sodium menu items as a “warning label” to customers. The level of sodium that is considered “high” is 2,300 mg or above. Proponents of the new law hope to decrease heart disease.

In the past, the city has tried to manage how much soda customers drink by limiting the sale of beverages over 16 ounces. Opponents of the controversial proposal claimed that it limited the freedom of people to make their own choices.

As the obesity epidemic in the United States remains unfixed, we have to ask ourselves if limiting the ability for Americans to buy the products that are actually causing harm is really a bad thing. The statistic still stands that over two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese.

At this rate, the country may soon require the drastic and apparently unjust measures of banning large drink sizes. Quite simply, Americans can’t seem to make healthy decisions no matter how much information is given to them.

I am all for restaurants labeling the nutrition facts of their foods and informing their customers. Unfortunately, just because more information is available does not mean that it is taken into consideration.

Restaurants across the country have been required to make the nutrition facts of their menu items available to customers for several years now. These charts are, for the most part, easy to read and easily accessible. They contain calorie, sodium, fat and cholesterol content, and while they make customers aware of what they are eating, it has not made any significant difference in deterring people from eating unhealthy foods.

Menu items that contain 2,300 mg of sodium should not just be labeled. They should be banned altogether. A restaurant should not be able to serve an item of food that contains an entire days worth of sodium intake in a single serving. Americans are already ingesting over 1,000 mg of sodium above the suggested intake. The fact that they can potentially consume one days’ worth of sodium in one meal is alarming.

Restaurants should have to find a different way of preparing these extremely high sodium foods, or get rid of them altogether because these levels of sodium are highly toxic.

Every year, around 800,000 people die from heart disease or stroke in the United States. Imagine how much this number could decrease if it was a little harder for people to eat the extremely unhealthy food served at many restaurants. Despite the fact that thousands are dying from unhealthy consumption, it is seen as unlawful to banish these lethal foods.

There are rules forcing people to buckle their seat belts and walk on the cross walk, but nothing to preserve and better people’s health.

The answer to the issue is simple — remove the temptation. Telling people that their food is unhealthy won’t have as much of an effect if it is still available.

Of course, the restaurants themselves will not want to comply. Removing popular high sodium items from the menu is bad for business, and the goal of the restaurant is to make money, not care about the health of people.

Young adults that go to restaurants are unlikely to take the time to read what the nutrition facts are, no matter how prominently it is placed. If the option of unhealthy food is removed, then they will just order something else.

Another issue may be, that people do not realize how high consumption of bad foods impact their health. The overarching issue is that people are not taking their health seriously, either because they don’t care or they are simply unaware of the danger of bad nutrition.

That’s why government needs to step in and help Americans make better choices for themselves. Decreasing serving sizes, putting a cap on sodium and fat content and removing the items that have high levels of unhealthy ingredients will make it a lot easier for people to eat healthier when they are eating out.

Courtney Han is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies and political science. Her column, “Fit-Wit,” runs monthly on Thursdays.

Courtney Han

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