The Big Apple’s Salt Shakedown

When it rains, it pours for overzealous New York City food nannies. The city announced today that it has a new front in its war on food: salt. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is asking food manufacturers and restaurants to voluntarily reduce the sodium content of foods, with the goal of slashing salt intake by 25 percent over 5 years. (If the city’s past regulatory heavy-handedness is any indication, though, it means “voluntary” in the Tony Soprano sense of the word.) As we’re telling the media today, people should take NYC’s salt proposition with a grain of you-know-what:

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s latest assault on salt once again shows city regulators are dead set on demonizing and regulating just about every aspect of New Yorkers’ lives. These sodium guidelines are the latest example of the city’s disdainful belief that when it comes to matters of personal health, the city knows best.

Everybody needs salt to live; there’s little debate about that. But as for the city’s claim that sodium consumption is too high, it’s not so black-and-white. An October study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found that people naturally regulate their salt intake, meaning that for every can of anchovies people eat, their bodies go for less salty food later on. In other words, government-induced ingredient tinkering would be an exercise in futility.
And as The New York Times notes, there are other problems with NYC’s hastiness:

An elaborate clinical trial could weigh the pluses and minuses of cutting salt in a large group of people. But that would cost millions, and it has not been done.
Dr. Michael H. Alderman, a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said the city’s initiative, if successful in reducing salt, would amount to an uncontrolled experiment with the public’s health.
“I’m always worried about unintended consequences,” he said.

One consequence may be that New Yorkers will have to pack a shaker in their pockets whenever they eat out. We’re sure that Mayor Bloomberg, who according to the Times enjoys salt as an extra topping on his pizza, will be one of them. And while Hizzoner is pouring it on, he should ask himself: Are people getting high blood pressure from eating too much salt, or from hearing too much nanny-state hysteria?

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