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The War on Salt


Waitman
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I'm sorry, but part of the point of New York City is that there's a certain tolerance -- even celebration of -- the little vices that make life worth living. Casual sex, serious drinking, greed, ostentatious displays of wealth, post-modern literature.... New York City ain't sleep-away Bible camp.

So, what's up with Mayor Bloomberg and his War on Food? Not that I'm pro-trans-fat or think that there's any redeeming feature to Pringles or the Olive Garden restaurant chain, but still. The guy's starting down a path that leads inevitably to the banning of pepperoni pizza and -- how long can it be before he turns in this direction? -- gin. He and nickle-bag Mayor Adrian Fenty really need to recall that they are big city mayors with real city challenges and leave the micromanaging our shopping and cooking to us.

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I'm sorry, but part of the point of New York City is that there's a certain tolerance -- even celebration of -- the little vices that make life worth living. Casual sex, serious drinking, greed, ostentatious displays of wealth, post-modern literature.... New York City ain't sleep-away Bible camp.

So, what's up with Mayor Bloomberg and his War on Food? Not that I'm pro-trans-fat or think that there's any redeeming feature to Pringles or the Olive Garden restaurant chain, but still. The guy's starting down a path that leads inevitably to the banning of pepperoni pizza and -- how long can it be before he turns in this direction? -- gin. He and nickle-bag Mayor Adrian Fenty really need to recall that they are big city mayors with real city challenges and leave the micromanaging our shopping and cooking to us.

NYMag's Grub Street inventoried who's for, against and on the fence.

Did Baltimore have any success with its no target, voluntary awareness program?

BALTIMORE (Sept. 30, 2009) Public health officials, in cooperation with the Restaurant Association of Maryland and local politicians, introduced a program Wednesday aimed at lowering salt consumption among Baltimore residents.

The voluntary program has no specific reduction targets, and no legislation requiring reduction is planned for now. Instead, the plan is designed to increase public awareness about health risks associated with excessive sodium consumption and to encourage food providers, including restaurateurs, manufacturers and retailers, to reduce sodium in the items they produce and sell

Read more: http://www.nrn.com/article.aspx?id=373688#ixzz0cQDC6CI9

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I had a guest last night that requested no salt be added to her food. Guess what I did? I did not add any salt to her food. It's a personal choice and government needs to STAY OUT OF IT!

I crave black/white simplicity as much as the next homo sapien, however...

Those collective personal choices directly translate into health care needs, the costs of which have become staggering for us all. I don't think legislating salt, fat, sugar, etc., is the answer. But the trajectory we are on now is not the answer, either.

(personal choice bounced against public needs is the tradeoff domain)

(but wow i don't want to take this thread into that policy wonk-ish direction)

(move along now, and pass the soy sauce)

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I crave black/white simplicity as much as the next homo sapien, however...

Those collective personal choices directly translate into health care needs, the costs of which have become staggering for us all. I don't think legislating salt, fat, sugar, etc., is the answer. But the trajectory we are on now is not the answer, either.

It's a personal choice and government needs to STAY OUT OF IT!

I come down on the side of KMango, and I think chef4cook hits the point without realizing it and comes to the totally wrong conclusion.

Forgive my pedantry below, but I can't say it any other way.

Without getting too deeply into socio-political philosophy, the role of government is simple--to provide us a framework to do things collectively when that will bring a better outcome for all than would be achieved if we all acted individually. Any group, even the nuclear family, has collective rules, and the larger and more diverse the group, the greater is the need for a collective rule framework. That's just a fact of homo sapien life. Now. Off. Soapbox.

And this brings us to salt, and more broadly to food regulation generally. The problem with salt in modern life is that it fails two criteria that would be necessary to leave it strictly as a personal choice without any regulation:

  • It's not really a personal choice. Most salt consumption today is not a result of personal choice--salt, in excess, is everywhere in the food we buy, in the store and in restaurants (particularly fast food). It is typically put there by manufacturers and restaurants as a way to trick us into liking the taste of their stuff and buying more of it, not because it is needed or healthy or because we (most people) would consume so much of it if we knew how much is in there and its long term effects; average people can't know all this stuff about everything and still conduct their daily lives.
  • Overconsumption of salt by some affects all. The consumption of this excess salt by those who do, whether by explicit choice or by error, has real impacts on the rest of us who don't, particularly through health care costs that we all end up bearing. It's like second hand smoke--the smoker has no right to impose it on those around him, and the rest of us have every right to impose rules to ameliorate its impact on us.

What to do? In my view, reasonable regulation of the salt content of foods offered for sale is appropriate, and this is what I suppose NY is trying to do. Everyone recognizes that the devil is in the details, but the principle is sound. What would not be reasonable is trying to regulate the individual's choice to use more salt if he/she wants to. Anyone can just reach for the salt shaker (although it may be bad, regulation can only go so far). And that's why regulation of salt content does not impose a burden on anybody, and is why chef4cook's conclusion is IMO not valid. Those who prepare and sell foods, certainly on a large scale (not necessary individual restaurants), ought to be enjoined by regulation from oversalting for everyone; those who want to can take individual action and put back on as much as they want for themselves.

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I come down on the side of KMango, and I think chef4cook hits the point without realizing it and comes to the totally wrong conclusion.

Forgive my pedantry below, but I can't say it any other way.

Without getting too deeply into socio-political philosophy, the role of government is simple--to provide us a framework to do things collectively when that will bring a better outcome for all than would be achieved if we all acted individually. Any group, even the nuclear family, has collective rules, and the larger and more diverse the group, the greater is the need for a collective rule framework. That's just a fact of homo sapien life. Now. Off. Soapbox.

And this brings us to salt, and more broadly to food regulation generally. The problem with salt in modern life is that it fails two criteria that would be necessary to leave it strictly as a personal choice without any regulation:

  • It's not really a personal choice. Most salt consumption today is not a result of personal choice--salt, in excess, is everywhere in the food we buy, in the store and in restaurants (particularly fast food). It is typically put there by manufacturers and restaurants as a way to trick us into liking the taste of their stuff and buying more of it, not because it is needed or healthy or because we (most people) would consume so much of it if we knew how much is in there and its long term effects; average people can't know all this stuff about everything and still conduct their daily lives.
  • Overconsumption of salt by some affects all. The consumption of this excess salt by those who do, whether by explicit choice or by error, has real impacts on the rest of us who don't, particularly through health care costs that we all end up bearing. It's like second hand smoke--the smoker has no right to impose it on those around him, and the rest of us have every right to impose rules to ameliorate its impact on us.

What to do? In my view, reasonable regulation of the salt content of foods offered for sale is appropriate, and this is what I suppose NY is trying to do. Everyone recognizes that the devil is in the details, but the principle is sound. What would not be reasonable is trying to regulate the individual's choice to use more salt if he/she wants to. Anyone can just reach for the salt shaker (although it may be bad, regulation can only go so far). And that's why regulation of salt content does not impose a burden on anybody, and is why chef4cook's conclusion is IMO not valid. Those who prepare and sell foods, certainly on a large scale (not necessary individual restaurants), ought to be enjoined by regulation from oversalting for everyone; those who want to can take individual action and put back on as much as they want for themselves.

A very slippery slope. Aside from the somewhat condescending idea that people are just too thick to know what's in their food or to respond rationally if they do, running a cost-benefit analysis on the availability of certain fave indulgences -- from well-marbled steaks to well-chilled martinis -- might suggest that salt is a beginning and not an end.

Were you to consider the accidents, premature deaths, chrime, chronic diseases, lost productivity and misery inflicted on friends, family and strangers by those consuming alcohol you'd have to suspect that, by your logic, Mayor Bloomberg is going after the wrong substance. And, I can guarantee without looking it up, that if the Bloomberg standard became some sort of law, Vace pizza would be banned outright.

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A very slippery slope. Aside from the somewhat condescending idea that people are just too thick to know what's in their food or to respond rationally if they do, running a cost-benefit analysis on the availability of certain fave indulgences -- from well-marbled steaks to well-chilled martinis -- might suggest that salt is a beginning and not an end.

Not a question of people being too thick. Its a question of information and time. The average person simply has no way of knowing about everything he might encounter in his daily activities that may do him harm and act accordingly. It's an impossibility. That's why we have health, environmental, and safety regulation of all kinds. Billions of pages of them probably. We live in a modern and complex society, and have no choice but to depend on experts and those we put in authority to determine what is, from a technical standpoint, OK and what isn't and put regulations in place to reasonably protect us. It seems strange to me to have to say this on a board in Washington DC, the very town whose major job is to create and enforce such regulations, without which modern society could not function.

If this were 1906 and Upton Sinclair had just published "The Jungle," would it be reasonable to say the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act are a slippery slope? That they are condescending to the people who can perfectly protect themselves? The packing industry certainly did. I don't see it that way. No way am I saying that salt rises to the same level, but it is 104 years later, and we now have the luxury of dealing with the smaller concerns. If anybody wants to spread bacteria on his steak and then eat it, he is free to do so, with or without the 1906 regulations and others that have followed. Same with salt. Meanwhile, I think some reasonable regulations are in order to assist those who don't want to have it too much of it there when they buy whatever it is, and on balance I don't see the harm. In fact, it ought to be applauded by the conservatives, since it preserves the individual's right to consume what he pleases, not what some corporation wants him to eat and tries to slip onto his plate.

As to alcohol and well-marbled meat, the difference is that you clearly and obviously know what you're consuming when you do it. It truly is a personal decision. That's the problem with bacteria and salt and other things--you don't know, and that's the fundamental difference. And BTW before it comes up labeling alone isn't going to solve the problem. Human beings don't work that way and we need to face that.

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some medical researchers have questioned the scientific basis for the initiative, saying insufficient research had been done on possible effects. While agreeing that reducing salt is likely to lower average blood pressure, they say it can lead to other physiological changes, some of which may be associated with heart problems.

While I'm not a scientist, this sounds suspiciously like those people who argue that global warming is just a myth. I'm all for more education and access to information, but I see no need to regulate salt content. On the other hand, I wish there're more reduced sodium products (e.g., there are no flavored low-salt potato chips, AFAIK).

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New Yorkers wanna foist more regulation on themselves (thus begetting excessive bureaucracy, taxation, ad infinitum...) they can knock themselves the fuck out. Something tells me this kind of thing won't be happening here in Virginia any time soon, thank God.

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The new proposed salt law in NY is rather hilarious.

------------------

http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&bn=A10129&Summary=Y&Actions=Y&Votes=Y&Memo=Y&Text=Y

A10129 Text:

S T A T E O F N E W Y O R K

________________________________________________________________________

10129

I N A S S E M B L Y

March 5, 2010

___________

Introduced by M. of A. ORTIZ, MARKEY -- Multi-Sponsored by -- M. of A.

PERRY -- read once and referred to the Committee on Health

AN ACT to amend the general business law, in relation to prohibiting the

use of salt in the preparation of food by restaurants

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM-

BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

1 Section 1. The general business law is amended by adding a new section

2 399-bbb to read as follows:

3 S 399-BBB. PROHIBITION ON SALT; RESTAURANTS. 1. NO OWNER OR OPERATOR

4 OF A RESTAURANT IN THIS STATE SHALL USE SALT IN ANY FORM IN THE PREPARA-

5 TION OF ANY FOOD FOR CONSUMPTION BY CUSTOMERS OF SUCH RESTAURANT,

6 INCLUDING FOOD PREPARED TO BE CONSUMED ON THE PREMISES OF SUCH RESTAU-

7 RANT OR OFF OF SUCH PREMISES.

8 2. WHENEVER THERE SHALL BE A VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION AN APPLICATION

9 MAY BE MADE BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL IN THE NAME OF THE PEOPLE OF THE

10 STATE OF NEW YORK TO A COURT OR JUSTICE HAVING JURISDICTION BY A SPECIAL

11 PROCEEDING TO ISSUE AN INJUNCTION, AND UPON NOTICE TO THE DEFENDANT OF

12 NOT LESS THAN FIVE DAYS, TO ENJOIN AND RESTRAIN THE CONTINUANCE OF SUCH

13 VIOLATIONS; AND IF IT SHALL APPEAR TO THE SATISFACTION OF THE COURT OR

14 JUSTICE THAT THE DEFENDANT HAS, IN FACT, VIOLATED THIS SECTION, AN

15 INJUNCTION MAY BE ISSUED BY THE COURT OR JUSTICE, ENJOINING AND

16 RESTRAINING ANY FURTHER VIOLATIONS, WITHOUT REQUIRING PROOF THAT ANY

17 PERSON HAS, IN FACT, BEEN INJURED OR DAMAGED THEREBY. IN ANY SUCH

18 PROCEEDING, THE COURT MAY MAKE ALLOWANCES TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL AS

19 PROVIDED IN PARAGRAPH SIX OF SUBDIVISION (A) OF SECTION EIGHTY-THREE

20 HUNDRED THREE OF THE CIVIL PRACTICE LAW AND RULES, AND DIRECT RESTITU-

21 TION. WHENEVER THE COURT SHALL DETERMINE THAT A VIOLATION OF THIS

22 SECTION HAS OCCURRED, THE COURT MAY IMPOSE A CIVIL PENALTY OF NOT MORE

23 THAN ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR EACH VIOLATION. EACH USE OF SALT IN

24 VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION SHALL CONSTITUTE A SEPARATE VIOLATION. IN

25 CONNECTION WITH ANY SUCH PROPOSED APPLICATION, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL IS

26 AUTHORIZED TO TAKE PROOF AND MAKE A DETERMINATION OF THE RELEVANT FACTS

27 AND TO ISSUE SUBPOENAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CIVIL PRACTICE LAW AND

28 RULES.

29 S 2. This act shall take effect on the thirtieth day after it shall

30 have become a law.

EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets

[ ] is old law to be omitted.

LBD16210-01-0

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For persons with sodium induced hypertension, it is imperative to eliminate sodium to the extent possible. I say that as one who knows, having just gone on a low-sodium diet and lost 7 pounds in two weeks almost undoubtedly mostly water. I had a lot of edema and it's going away now. Blood pressure was in the malignant level and that's dropping, too.

For the rest of the population, the recommended sodium intake is controversial, and I predict it will be halved within the decade.

From a personal freedom standpoint, it's your body, do what you want.

From a public health standpoint, we all pay for health care so we should have some kind of say.

I suggest that the middle ground is to disclose the amount of sodium in foods.

My own solution these days is not going to restaurants anymore. When I cook at home, I know what I am getting. Right now I am achieving below 1500 mg/day and trying to go lower.

A chef may be accommodating in not adding salt to food that is being cooked, but condiments, stock, etc., all have a lot of sodium to begin with.

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Two different articles saying basically the same thing:

New evidence indicates humans naturally regulate their salt intake

Is That Right? "Decreasing salt intake is advisable"

And not getting enough salt is just as bad as getting too much, but we tend to naturally regulate our own intake.

More importantly: "The Dietary Guidelines note that we get about 77 percent of our sodium from processed foods, which tend not to be very healthful, salt or no salt. Whether your aim is to reduce sodium consumption or not, steering clear of heavily processed foods may be "advisable" indeed."

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Smoking is not good for you. Anything not good for you is bad. Hence, illegal. Alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat, bad language, chocolate, gasoline, uneducational toys, and spicy food. Abortion is illegal, so is pregnancy if you don't have a license. ... Salt is not good for you, hence, it is illegal.

NAME THAT MOVIE!

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Maddening.

My April 2010 edition of Nutrition Action Health Letter arrived yesterday. The cover story? "Shaving Salt, Saving Lives", with a play-by-play of key perspectives and health-related issues.

Until yesterday, I had not connected the dots on the importance of this topic. The letter did a great job of putting everything "in English".

What's maddening is the document does not yet appear on CSPI's website. I'm guessing that's because they do the hard copy distro first, followed by web posting a while later. Once a snapshot of the file appears on their site, I'll post here again. No matter where you stand on this issue, the April 2010 Nutrition Action Health Letter is well worth your attention.

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More on sodium, from "Dr. Gourmet", http://www.drgourmet.com/bites/2010/030310.shtml.

Quantifying the Effects of Less Salt

I have said in the past that the typical American eats over 6000 milligrams (or 6 GRAMS) of sodium per day. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine (2010;362:590-9) means I'm going to have to update that figure: the latest estimates, for 2005-2006, estimate that every adult male in the United States eats an average of 10.4 grams of salt per day. Women, on the other hand, only eat a more modest (and I use that term facetiously) amount of 7.3 grams per day.

That's a tablespoon and a half (4.5 teaspoons), for men, and about 1 tablespoon of salt (3 teaspoons) for women.

We know that reducing the amount of salt we eat can help reduce blood pressure and your risk of heart disease - from stroke to heart attack. If everyone in the United States over 35 years old reduced their salt intake by only 3 grams per day, what kind of impact would that have on our country's overall health?

The article reports on the efforts of a team of researchers from the University of California at San Francisco in collaboration with researchers at Stanford and Columbia Universities. Using a computer simulation of the effects of heart disease known as the Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) Policy Model, they estimated the effect that reduced salt intake would have on different segments of the population. They based their estimates on the known impact that reduced sodium has on blood pressure, taking into account such variables as race, systolic blood pressure, HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, smoking status, use of blood pressure medications and whether a person is diabetic or not.

To sum up their findings, reducing the amount of sodium in the diet by 3 grams per day would yield:

* 60,000 to 120,000 fewer new cases of heart disease per year,

* 32,000 to 66,000 fewer strokes each year,

* 54,000 to 99,000 fewer heart attacks each year, and

* 44,000 to 92,000 fewer deaths from any cause per year.

As I've said before, that's a lot of friends, coworkers and family members.

The effects of this lower sodium intake would be even higher among blacks than nonblacks regardless of age or sex. Black women's risk of stroke would decrease between 9 and 15%, while white women's risk of stroke would decrease just 5-9%. Black men and women between 35 and 64 would see their risk of death from all causes decrease by 7-11%, while nonblacks' risk would fall only 3-6%.

What this means for you

It's more urgent than ever to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet. The researchers estimate that 75-80% of the sodium in the U.S. diet is from processed foods - not from adding salt while cooking or at the table. One of the easiest ways to cut salt from your diet is to cook your own food from fresh ingredients as much as possible and measuring the salt you do put in your food. More tips on reducing the amount of sodium in your diet can be found on the Low Sodium Diet section at DrGourmet.com.

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