Denny's in suit over salt disclosure

Sign for a Denny's restaurant in Emeryville, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: Scientists recommend you use no more than a half a teaspoon of salt
per day -- and this does not stop most of us from eating two or three times that. One group of health advocates is suing Denny's restaurants for not telling customers how much salt is in their food when they order it. Reporter Corbb O'Connor has our story.


Corbb O'Connor: We all know that it's tough to eat healthy at a fast food restaurant, but the Center for Science in the Public Interest says some meals are worse than others.

Steve Gardner: A Denny's double cheeseburger has three times the sodium of a McDonald's double cheeseburger.

Steve Gardner is the Center's Litigation Director:

Gardner: Everyone excoriates McDonald's for selling junk. Well Denny's has kicked McDonald's silly when it comes to selling junk.

Gardner says many of Denny's entrees have double or triple the amount of sodium we should have in an entire day. Now, there's nothing illegal about selling salty food. But the Center wants to make an example out of Denny's to force more restaurants to put salt content on the menu.

Denny's declined our request for an interview, but their CEO, Nelson Marchioli, did talk to WIND radio in Chicago two months ago, before the lawsuit. He points out that salt is a big part of what gives food its taste.

Nelson Marchioli: Trying to reduce the salt content, it's kinda tough to get something to taste good when you understand that, you know, our meats, bacon and sausage are cured with -- oh my -- they're cured with salt.

Denny's calls the lawsuit frivolous. Regardless of the judge's final decision about salt, restaurants like Denny's may still have to reprint their menus with other nutrition info -- like calories. New York City now requires all chain restaurants to post calories on the menu, and other cities are creating similar laws.

So the restaurant industry and members of Congress from both parties are pushing for a national standard. It might seem strange that restaurants want more regulation, but they do have their reasons, says Ellen Koteff, editor-in-chief of Nation's Restaurant News:

Ellen Koteff: Rather than have a patchwork of different laws all across the United States, the chain restaurant group wanted to make it universal, because they have restaurants -- many of them in all 50 states -- and they felt that it's better to get out in front of this.

The proposed law is now wrapped up in one Senate draft of the health care bill. If it passes, the requirement would force chains with 20 or more restaurants to put calorie counts next to each item on their menus.

In Washington, I'm Corbb O'Connor for Marketplace.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...