Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hide your Salt Shaker

 Rock Salt Photo from nate steiner's photostream

Now the Feds want to regulate salt...

The Food and Drug Administration is planning an unprecedented effort to gradually reduce the salt consumed each day by Americans, saying that less sodium in everything from soup to nuts would prevent thousands of deaths from hypertension and heart disease. The initiative, to be launched this year, would eventually lead to the first legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products.

"We can't just rely on the individual to do something," said Cheryl Anderson, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who served on the Institute of Medicine committee. "Food manufacturers have to reduce the amount of sodium in foods."

So, the FDA wants to regulate the amount of salt in manufactured foods, which on the surface sounds like a good idea. In my opinion, manufactured 'foods' are way too high in sodium. Of course in my opinion manufactured foods aren't real foods at all, but that's not relevant to this post.

Salt essential for animal life in small quantities, but salt is harmful in excess to plants and animals. The sodium it provides regulates the heartbeat and the body’s balance of fluids. And not only does salt keep you alive, it’s also pretty tasty. Salt flavor is one of the basic tastes, making salt one of the oldest, most ubiquitous food seasonings, and salt is essential to much of our food preservation. 

Salt works in tandem with fat and sugar to achieve flavors that grip the consumer and do not let go — an allure the food industry has recognized for decades. “Once a preference is acquired,” a top scientist at Frito-Lay wrote in a 1979 internal memorandum, “most people do not change it, but simply obey it.”

So instead of controlling the salt, maybe the Feds should control ALL the known but hidden addictive ingredients so prevalent in our foods, and making us fat and unhealthy?

Back in March, when I wrote about gun control, I questioned why the government has the right to regulate things like helmet laws, or seat belt laws. Now that the Feds are in the Health Care business they want to regulate things which, in their opinion, will make us healthier? (And save them money on our healthcare costs?) As long as the Feds continue to promote the erroneous opinion that natural saturated fats are bad, and GM products are good, we will have rising health care costs, and salt has very little to do with it.

I drink real cream (not half and half) in my morning coffee... the almost real stuff (not totally real because it is pasteurized). What would keep them from deciding that's too much saturated fat in their opinion, and they outlaw cream? Or that no one should ever have a cocktail because it leads to alcoholism in a few people?

Corporations enter the Battle
Cargill is the world's largest marketer of salt products, with the ability to sell over 18 million tons annually. Last November, they kicked off a campaign to spread their own message, with star chef Alton Brown, to promote cooking with salt. They are aware of the health concerns and are recommending 'smarter salting'...

“Salt is a pretty amazing compound,” Alton Brown, a Food Network star, gushes in a Cargill video called Salt 101. “So make sure you have plenty of salt in your kitchen at all times.” Mr. Brown suggests sprinkling it on foods like cookies, fresh fruit, ice cream and coffee. "You might be surprised by what foods are enhanced by its briny kiss."

I'm not against salt at all, and in fact I agree with Alton Brown on the importance of salt in foods. I just wish Mr. Brown wasn't speaking for Cargill. I use salt in my cooking (haven't tried it ice cream) and most of the salt I use is grey salt, full of minerals, hand harvested from the coast of Brittany. Much of my food would taste pretty bland without a pinch of salt. (Salt used in cooking and at the table, coupled with naturally occurring salt in foods, all together add up to well under 1/4 of the average daily intake of most Americans.)

It's not the salt alone that I worry about. I'm leery of giant corporations in general, for the power and influence they can bring to bear, and more so when they launch a dedicated 'sales' campaign. Over this past winter, road salt increased 156% in some areas. Grocery prices are up and expected to increase 7.5% every year for at least the next 5 years, especially staples... and certainly salt is a staple in every kitchen.

Here are some remarks about Cargill, from Wikipedia:

Cargill, Incorporated is a privately held, multinational corporation, and is based in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. It has grown into the country's largest privately held corporation (in terms of revenue).

Cargill's business activities include purchasing, processing, and distributing grain and other agricultural commodities, and the manufacture and sale of livestock feed and ingredients for processed foods and pharmaceuticals.

The company also supplies approximately 22 percent of the United States domestic meat market. All of the eggs used in McDonald's  restaurants in the United States pass through Cargill's plants. They are the largest poultry producer in Thailand.

I'm sure the battle will go on, and probably with a furor, since the FDA thinks it is their appointed duty to save us from ourselves.

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