Springfield surgeon wants restaurants to display salt content on menus

A Springfield physician has spoken with the Ohio Restaurant Association about requiring local restaurants to provide salt information on their menus.

Dr. Surender Neravetla, a cardiothoracic surgeon, spoke with the association about requiring restaurants to post information about salt content on their menus in order to make diners more aware of their daily intake.

“We are trying to help people make an educated decision,” Neravetla said.

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Neravetla is the director of cardiac surgery at the Springfield Regional Medical Center and also is the author of two books: “Salt: Black America’s Silent Killer” and “Salt Kills.”

Neravetla originally submitted a petition, signed by 75 Mercy Health-Springfield physicians, to Springfield City Commissioners last fall. However, commissioners told him that nothing could be done on a local level. He then submitted the petition to the Restaurant Association of Ohio.

Neravetla’s proposed rules call on restaurants to provide salt content information on menus, participate proactively in the prevention and management of heart disease, create and provide more healthy meal options, provide salt shakers only upon request and prepare sauces and gravies without salt.

The idea isn’t to require restaurants to use less salt, but to allow customers to make more informed choices, Neravetla said.

Homa Moheimani, manager of media and communications with the Ohio Restaurant Association, said the association and Neravetla had “a great conversation.”

“We are both in agreement that we want to make sure folks are healthy,” Moheimani said. “We are open to continuing this conversation about this issue.”

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Salt intake can lead to high blood pressure, or hypertension, which is a contributing factor to heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It is responsible for one in every four deaths, and, according to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of heart disease is preventable.

Heart disease, including conditions such as congestive heart failure, has been one of the leading causes of death in Clark County, with a rate of consistently higher than the state in recent years. In 2015, there were 10,090 inpatient admissions for congestive heart failure at Springfield Regional Medical Center, according to the Clark County Combined Health District.

“We are trying to keep people out of the hospital but they keep coming back with the same problems,” Neravetla said. “We, as a society, need to look at heart disease as a preventable disease.”

The AHA recommends a maximum of about 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, or about one teaspoon. But the AHA says an ideal limit would be closer to 1,500 milligrams or about three-fourths of a teaspoon.

“It’s pretty common that people eat more than the limit of 1,500 milligrams in a meal,” Neravetla said. “And most of the time, people are exceeding that.”

According to the AHA, the average American eats more than 3,000 milligrams of sodium daily.

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The Food and Drug Administration already requires restaurants with 20 or more locations to make information about calories and other nutritional facts available to customers.

Because of the FDA requirement, calories and other nutritional facts can be found at some chain restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, ice cream shops, salad bars, buffets, movie theaters, amusement parks and convenience stores.

The National Restaurant Association, under which the Ohio Restaurant Association falls, supported and advocated the FDA to require display facts.

“Through this new federal menu-labeling standard, restaurant guests will have access to sodium and other nutrition information to help inform their choice,” a statement from the National Restaurant Association says.

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