U.S. Government Weaning Us From Salt?
The Feds are telling going to limit the amount of salt that can be in processed foods, literally ranging from soup to nuts.
The government intends to work with the food industry and health experts to reduce sodium gradually over a period of years to adjust the American palate to a less salty diet, according to FDA sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the initiative had not been formally announced.
Officials have not determined the salt limits. In a complicated undertaking, the FDA would analyze the salt in spaghetti sauces, breads and thousands of other products that make up the $600 billion food and beverage market, sources said. Working with food manufacturers, the government would set limits for salt in these categories, designed to gradually ratchet down sodium consumption. The changes would be calibrated so that consumers barely notice the modification.
The legal limits would be open to public comment, but administration officials do not think they need additional authority from Congress.
Kevin Drum is pleased.
I am so in favor of this. It’s sort of like the Do Not Call list: I don’t really care about ideology here, and I don’t really care if this is nanny statism or government overreach or anything else. I’m just totally in favor. And you know what? By the time this is done, my guess is that nobody will even remember a difference. They’ll just be eating healthier food that tastes better and doesn’t cause as many strokes or heart attacks. Three cheers for the FDA.
While we agree on the Do Not Call list, I’m a little queasy about this one. The policy outcome is probably a good one. Restaurant food, in particular, is often so overly salted as to be virtually inedible.
I don’t have any strong ideological objection to the government involving itself in this issue, given the very real health risks of too much sodium in the American diet. I favor labeling requirements and education on this topic.
I’m less sanguine, though, about restricting the sale of, say, high salt peanuts. If, say, Planters wants to put out a high-salt variety and consumers are willing to take the long-term health risks because, damn it, they really like salty peanuts, then I can’t see a rationale for government to stop that transaction.
And I’m not at all sure why the president and the FDA get to make such an important decision. This strikes me as intrusive enough that Congress should have to get involved directly. I don’t mind deferring to the FDA’s expertise — or its ability to work with industry — to set specific levels of sodium. But Congress should pass a law outlining the broader principle.
Further, ideology aside, there’s something vaguely creepy about the Federal government trying to alter the citizenry’s taste for salt. It’s hard to imagine anything more intrusive than that.