Salt shakeout: Denny’s, CSPI in sodium suit

Salt shakeout: Denny’s, CSPI in sodium suit

WASHINGTON —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

The lawsuit, the first sodium-related suit leveled against a restaurant firm, was filed July 23 on behalf of plaintiff Nick DeBenedetto, 48, in Superior Court of New Jersey, in order to get Denny’s [2] to disclose the amount of sodium in each of its food items and place a warning about high sodium levels in the food on its menu, officials at the Center for Science in the Public Interest said. —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

The lawsuit is “frivolous and without merit,” Spartanburg, S.C.-based Denny’s said in a statement. “The company will fight it aggressively in court. With hundreds of items on the menu, Denny’s offers a wide variety of choices for consumers with different lifestyles, understanding that many [of them] have special dietary needs.” —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

But Michael Jacobson, CSPI’s executive director, said that although the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group teamed up with DeBenedetto to sue the 1,500-unit family-dining chain, the group’s objective is much broader. The real purpose of the suit, he said, is to get the restaurant industry’s attention and force operators to reduce the amount of salt in the foods they serve their customers. —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

According to Jacobson, the CSPI became involved in the lawsuit because it wanted to “send a signal to companies to begin working to reduce sodium levels—and, ideally, improve their products in other ways, too.” He said CSPI intended to “add a new pressure on the industry, which we hope will agree to changes being called for by New York City’s and other health departments, and maybe the new, revitalized FDA will make that effort national.” —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

Jacobson added that Denny’s was one of several companies the CSPI had considered targeting as a prospective defendant in a sodium-related lawsuit, something the group had been exploring for at least a year. He also noted that the CSPI had tried to negotiate a deal in which the chain would reduce the sodium in its food, but that talks had broken down. Denny’s, meanwhile, had added more healthful fare to its menu by June, but was unable to prevent CSPI from filing the lawsuit. —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

“There was tough competition when we chose the defendant,” he said. “All of those companies would have been worthy of the role. We regretted that our limited resources didn’t permit us to negotiate with all of them. So we started with a big one, Denny’s, and negotiated for over a year, without success. Believe me, we made all kinds of suggestions, but the company wouldn’t commit itself to doing anything but move along at its own pace.” —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

Denny’s and the CSPI began negotiations in 2008. In February, Denny’s said it would begin to reformulate menu items to include lower salt content, and by June the new items were available systemwide. In addition, Denny’s said it eliminated higher-sodium items from its kids’ menu, replacing them with more healthful items such as fruits and vegetables. —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

CSPI has previously used litigation to push its agenda with such issues as nutritional disclosure and trans fats with restaurant operators. In May, the advocacy group released a study dissecting the sodium levels of numerous meals at restaurant chains, including Chili’s, Red Lobster and Applebee’s, saying certain dishes contained more salt than recommended daily amounts. —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

The suggested daily intake of sodium is 2,300 milligrams for adults and 1,500 milligrams for seniors and children, according to many medical organizations. Diets high in sodium have been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes. —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

DeBenedetto, of Tinton Falls, N.J., said he suffers from hypertension and takes medication to control his condition. A Denny’s patron for more than 20 years, he said he hadn’t known the menu items he loved had such large amounts of sodium. One of his favorite foods, he added, is the chain’s Moons Over My Hammy sandwich, which consists of ham, eggs and cheese and contains 2,580 milligrams of sodium. —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

“I was astonished, I mean, literally floored to find that these simple sandwiches have more salt than someone in my condition should have in a whole day,” DeBenedetto said. “It’s as if Denny’s is stacking the deck against people like me. I never would have selected those items had I known.” —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

According to the court papers, DeBenedetto is seeking damages under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, including “a refund of the purchase price of the meals at issue, which he would not have purchased if he had known the sodium content.” —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

The suit further claims that Denny’s violated New Jersey laws by “its concealment, suppression or omission of the material fact that its food contains excessive amounts of sodium.” —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

Steve Gardner, CSPI’s litigation director, said: “By concealing an important material fact about its products—namely, that these foods have disease-promoting levels of sodium—Denny’s is failing its responsibility to its customers and is in violation of the laws of New Jersey and several other states.” —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

The Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit public affairs group who says its mission is to defend the right of adults and parents to choose what they eat, drink and how they enjoy themselves, vigorously defended the restaurant chain’s actions. —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

“There’s nothing in the statute that indicates Denny’s has done anything wrong,” said J. Justin Wilson, senior research analyst for the CCF. “The idea is that somehow they are misleading consumers by keeping the sodium content hidden, but that is just a joke. It is available in brochures at the restaurants and online. What the CSPI really wants to do is change peoples’ behavior, so they use an attack litigation strategy that moves consumers further away from what is their personal responsibility.” —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

Officials for the National Restaurant Association also said the Denny’s lawsuit was without merit. —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.

“Frivolous lawsuits won’t help Americans make smart food choices and live healthy lifestyles,” said Beth Johnson, the NRA’s vice president of public affairs. “Collaboration is more productive, which is why restaurant companies are working with manufacturers, suppliers and health organizations to reduce sodium.”— [email protected] [3] —A consumer advocacy group here upped the ante in the escalating battle over sodium in chain restaurant foods when it helped file a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s Corp. that accuses the company of perpetrating fraud for not disclosing the amount of salt in its menu items.