July 23, 2009 -- The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is suing the national restaurant chain Denny's, claiming the restaurant has too much sodium in its food.
In a statement, Denny's calls the lawsuit "frivolous" and says its nutrition information is posted on its web site.
The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Middlesex County, seeks to make Denny's put on its menus the sodium content of its food and a warning about high sodium levels.
In a news conference, Michael Jacobson, the CSPI' s executive director, said that the CSPI had negotiated with Denny's starting in December 2007 and decided to file the lawsuit when those negotiations "fell through."
"They said they'll try to lower sodium but they want to do it at their own schedule, which, unfortunately, could be decades," Jacobson said.
In a news release, the CSPI states that Denny's made "small" sodium cuts in several items, but those change didn't go as far as CSPI wanted and didn't include menu disclosures.
Noting that the CDC recommends most adults get no more than 1,500 milligrams per day of sodium, Jacobson said that certain Denny's dishes contain far more sodium, such as the 2,580 milligrams of sodium in the Moons Over My Hammy ham, egg, and cheese sandwich.
That sandwich is one of the items that lawsuit plaintiff Nick DeBenedetto, a 48-year-old New Jersey man with hypertension (high blood pressure), said was one of his favorite Denny's meals over the past 20 years.
In the news conference, DeBenedetto said he tried to live a healthy lifestyle and that he was "astonished and shocked" to learn how much sodium was in the Denny's items he typically ordered. "I wouldn't have selected these items if I'd known the extreme amount of sodium in this food," DeBenedetto said.
Jacobson says that although Denny's has posted sodium and other nutritional information online, that information should go on the menu. "If you drop into a Denny's, you're not going to the web. It's a totally inadequate means of informing consumers," Jacobson said.
Denny's released a statement about the lawsuit. Here is that statement:
"Denny's believes the lawsuit filed by CSPI is frivolous and without merit, and 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 have special dietary needs. In June 2009, the company launched Better for You items, allowing guests to replace favorites with lower-sodium and fat alternatives. Additionally, earlier this month, Denny's launched a Better for You kids menu. All nutrition information is available online at www.dennys.com."