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philosopher's avatar

The mayor of NYC is planning to force restaurants to lower the salt content of their meals. Do you feel that this is a good idea?

Asked by philosopher (9152points) April 26th, 2010

I do because salt is know to increase Blood Pressure and promote Heart Attacks.

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65 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Maybe after the get a handle on rodent control. lol

AstroChuck's avatar

I doubt he has the legal authority.

philosopher's avatar

@AstroChuck
Blomberg always gets his way.
This time I agree.
He bought the last election. He overtured term limits.

cockswain's avatar

It is good in spirit, but chefs use that to perfect their art and higher quality foods generally aren’t ridiculously high in salt content. I think the real target should be processed foods in grocery stores and restaurants, particularly fast food and things like Hot Pockets and other disgusting things.

People don’t really have a simple option to get fast low salt food.

wonderingwhy's avatar

So long as it’s done slowly, (you need to give restaurants time to adjust, or their customer base could be unduly impacted), and with some common sense (that might be asking an awful lot) I don’t see a problem with it beyond the partially ephemeral idea of the government essentially saying what we can & can’t eat. I’d rather see the restaurants just voluntarily lower, or clearly and accurately post on the menu, the salt content of the meal. But since I don’t sense much “want to” on the part of the industry for either and the health risks seem founded, go for it.

As @cockswain said though, I’d rather see processed foods targeted nationally.

deni's avatar

yeah, i dont mind that. i put tons of salt on my food because it tastes so gooooododdddddd but realize that everyone doesn’t like it. so i can always add more.

philosopher's avatar

@cockswain
Starbucks and Subway have agreed to reduce salt content.
Anything which improves the health of Americans can not be all bad. I think it is a good thing.

cockswain's avatar

@philosopher Agreed. Not that I picture Starbucks being a huge contributor to the problem, since most of the food they sell is more buttery and sugary.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Frankly, while I’d rather not have restaurants assault us with foods that aren’t good for us, and I understand that this is very important, I am more unhappy about the big problem that is the massive amount of service cuts about to happen in June to NYC Transit.

syzygy2600's avatar

It’s stupid and intrusive to personal rights. It’s one step closer to a world where the government cuts our food for us because they think we’re too stupid to use a knife.

bobbinhood's avatar

@syzygy2600 Thank you for finding a way to say what I’ve been thinking. GA

JLeslie's avatar

I am not in favor of it. I am all in favor of restaurants having to list calories in a dish, I guess they could add salt content disclosure also. Although, this only apllies to chain restaurants, and there are probably more non-chains than chains in NY. I would think you can ask the chef to go light on the salt, I ask for no garlic in dishes. I LOVE salt. My mom, who has high blood pressure reactive to salt (not all high blood pressure is) commented I should cut down on salt. So I did for a while, and the blood test I had during that time said I was low in salt, which is dangerous (I already have a heart arythmia, no need to add another problem for my heart) so I threw that idea right out the window happily.

jca's avatar

75% of the salt in our diets comes from processed foods @JLeslie , so tell your mom that it’s not the table salt that is the issue, it’s canned, frozen, boxed foods (Hamburger Helper, mac and cheese), ham and other deli meats, stuff like that. Canned soup is among the worst.

as far as Bloomie goes, he probably does have the legal authority and i’m sure he would have looked into the legality before proposing it. he already got the restaurants to post their calorie contents, and the newest thing he’s doing is making the restaurants post their “grade” from recent inspections, which is a great idea. He got bars to stop allowing smoking – i think he’s a great mayor.

Cupcake's avatar

I have neutral feelings about it. I think the real issues are (1) a lack of education about healthy lifestyles and the effects of a high-sodium diet, (2) an overabundance of high-fat, high-sodium and high-refined sugar food, (3) a massively overburdened, overworked, under-slept and busy population and (4) the disparity between price and nutritional content (low price typically equals unhealthy).

Will this address these issues? Probably not. Hopefully it will raise awareness, though.

I’m all for labeling, as @JLeslie said, but I don’t think there’s a lot of data to support making healthy food choices based on nutritional labels. By the time the government has a hand in the labels they are often very difficult to understand and interpret.

Adagio's avatar

Salt is an essential ingredient in the flavour equation.

philosopher's avatar

@Cupcake
You are correct but Americans need to begin to comprehend the facts and most have no clue.

philosopher's avatar

@Adagio
You would be surprised how much better your taste buds work when you reduce your salt intake.
I use organic spice from Costco. Garlic, oregano, thyme, parsley and many more. I use fresh and powered spices and I rarely use salt.
I eat whole foods not processed garbage. Processed food is loaded with salt.
Even organic tomato sauce has excess salt.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca Not to worry, my mom checks the sodium levels on everything.

DarkScribe's avatar

Restaurant or fast food chains – (which can hardly be classed as restaurants except in America)? If it is restaurants then he is an bit of a dingbat who hasn’t thought it through. Impossible to enforce and restaurants add sufficient salt to season, they don’t add excessive salt. He can’t tell them how to cook.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’d love that idea for just about anywhere. I don’t cook with salt so anytime I eat out then most of the food tastes to salty for me. It’s kind of bittersweet to go to a beautiful restaurant, pick through mouth watering entrees and see a glorious meal served you that would be just perfect if not so damned salty. I’d much rather add my own sprinkles, thanks.

philosopher's avatar

@Neizvestnaya
I do not cook with salt and when I eat out. I feel the same way.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Salt is so addictive! The more salt you want to taste, the more sugar you also want to taste and then you start craving the foods that are higher in those which are often empty calorie foods, high in fat. It may sound silly to regulate a spice but I think it could really help since many of eat out at least once a week. Also, I will feel better at someone buying me a good looking but expensive meal if I can at least enjoy eating it.

cockswain's avatar

every once in a while I get KFC and wake up several times in the night to drink at least one full glass of water each time. Heinous.

JLeslie's avatar

@Neizvestnaya But, I would think the expensive meals you can tell the chef less salt. It is the moderate chains and fast food places that you cannot easily control the salt, because a lot of the food is already prepared.

philosopher's avatar

@JLeslie
When your plate is individually prepared they will usually accommodate you.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@JLeslie
My experience of expensive kitchens and yours might be very different. I’ve yet to ask a server to ask the kitchen line to leave the salt out but I might try it out and see what happens.

JLeslie's avatar

@philosopher You just made me think I was not accounting for soups and other items alreayd prepared for the evenings dinner service.

@Neizvestnaya Since I love salt, I have never asked, but I frequently ask to hold the garlic (I might have said that above) and they accommodate me, or tell me it can’t be done if a sauce is premade. Same with spicy food, they usually will adjust it.

philosopher's avatar

@Neizvestnaya
Some Chefs may complain and say it won’t taste right.

JLeslie's avatar

@philosopher it won’t taste right. It is very difficult for people who are used to high levels of salt to eat something less salty.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@philosopher
I have worked in several very nice restaurants and was taught it was insulting to ask a chef to alter their food in any way so I’ve never asked up to this point. Like I say though, it sure is a shame to spend several hundred dollars and not really have enjoyed it as much as it could have been.

JLeslie's avatar

The Chefs need to get over themselves. If it is health related they should not be offended. They should not be offended no matter what. I can understand not wanting to make a bunch of changes, that it is being a pain in the ass (I could be like Sally if I allow myself, I only will 86 or change one thing on a dish, otherwise I don’t order it) but saying, “half the salt please,” should be doable in my opinion.

cockswain's avatar

I honestly don’t think it is the salt being added by actual chefs that is the problem. If they are using fresh ingredients, they add salt to flavor the food right, but it isn’t that much. Picture when you cook, say, a pot of marinara sauce. You might add a 3–4 teaspoons to the whole pot, then eat maybe a cup of sauce with that meal. Many (most?) processed foods will contain like 400 mgs or more per serving.

Blackberry's avatar

I use to be like people similar to Jleslie and Deni until I actually had regular food. You can just taste the healthy-ness. Sodium is so gross, frozen and processed food is so disgusting. Of course its a good idea, sometimes you have to save people from themselves. Did you know some people are actually putting bacon in peanut brittle? Seriously guys…..............

cockswain's avatar

Because I was too busy to cook a righteous meal tonight (in part because I’m addicted to this stupid site) I made a Red Baron pizza. ¼ pizza has 770 mgs of salt (32% the recommended daily limit). Guess what? I had more than ¼ pizza.

Obviously this is my own damn fault, but it actually tastes too salty. Why don’t they cut it down to 200mgs/serving? I’ll still eat it sometimes.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blackberry I cook from scratch most of the time. I don’t know why you think I eat a lot of processed food?

Blackberry's avatar

@Jleslie oi I’m sorry I just saw ‘I love salt’ lol! But you got the idea. I read too fast sometimes…..scratch food is awesome huh? : )

stallion44107's avatar

everyone would live a much longer life if we just let government tell us what to do and when to do it and how to do it. where we would do it is another question.
yes….much longer. and blander. like food WITHOUT SALT.

gimme a break already. now we need somebody telling us how to season our food. whats next ? synthetic salt? first splenda. now salina. if your eating so much salt that your life is in danger then you DESERVE to die. we have brains people. its still not against the law to use them. not yet,anyway.

cockswain's avatar

Regulating salt is not like banning books

philosopher's avatar

@cockswain
I understand that people dislike being told by government how to eat. I think they have a good point.
In some cases unfortunately they are the same people who go to our emergency rooms without insurance or with a Medicaid card.
How does our society make these people comprehend that excessive salt,sugar and processed junk food shortens your life? Should our society pay for their weakness?
There are no easy answers.
Education helps but some people will not listen.
I here statements like that is how my Grandparents ate.
Our Ancestors and Grandparents ate a healthier diet than many people do today.
More people lived on farms they consumed less meat. They ate more fresh fruit, and vegetables because; that was what was available. Our Ancestors did Manuel labor and they walked places. Their jobs involved more than sitting behind a desk and typing on a computer..

bobbinhood's avatar

@philosopher Our ancestors only had fresh fruits and vegetables available during harvest. I’m pretty confident that they did not have produce shipped to their corner store from all over the world all year round. So, yeah, they ate a fantastic diet during harvest when the fresh produce was available. But after that, they had to can anything they wanted to keep. Canning is not exactly the world’s healthiest process. While many people today may not consitently choose to eat healthily, we are much more able to do so than were our ancestors since we always have reasonably fresh produce available.

philosopher's avatar

@bobbinhood
To many people today choose to consume large amounts of saturated fat. They do too little physical labor. They do not exercise at all.
I would choose to can my fruit and vegetables over eating processed garbage.

cockswain's avatar

A very important argument in favor of reducing salt is the fact that improving our health, whether by choice or not, is going to save some amount of money on national health care spending.

Here is a relatively current economic forecast from the CBO: Total spending on health care would rise from 16 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2007 to 25 percent in 2025, 37 percent in 2050, and 49 percent in 2082.

Federal spending on Medicare (net of beneficiaries’ premiums) and Medicaid would rise from 4 percent of GDP in 2007 to 7 percent in 2025, 12 percent in 2050, and 19 percent in 2082.

Although economic models change and the real numbers could be substantially different, it is clear to anyone that reducing health care costs is vitally important. One can argue it is intrusive for the gov’t to regulate how we choose to eat, but one can also argue this is exactly the type of role a gov’t should play.

cockswain's avatar

To add a point, even though I agree we should have the freedom to choose what we eat, the fact remains that given all our options as a nation we have chosen very poorly. Our obesity rate is one indicator of that.

bobbinhood's avatar

@philosopher That’s fine. I’m just saying you can’t assume that previous generations had great diets simply because they didn’t have the access to processed foods. While we have access to a lot of junk, we also have a lot of healthy options that they didn’t have. The question becomes whether we need to be coddled, or if we can make our own decisions. If the former, one has to wonder how long we can trust the government to continue making more decisions for us before things get out of hand. Of course, what “out of hand” means will differ between people.

cockswain's avatar

@bobbinhood My point is that lack of gov’t intervention has allowed us to become obese, sick, and heading towards a health related economic problem. If gov’t doesn’t intervene (like they do in other economic situations), we’ll have some pretty serious issues in 30 years.

JLeslie's avatar

I gotta say I am not sure I am in favor of government intervention concerning our diets. Labeling yes, that I am very much behind, enforcing the disclosure of ingredients and calories, but the government actually changing the food supply in some way not sure. I think they alread manipulate with some subsidies. I was watching that Jamie Oliver show in WV, trying to change the school lunches, and it seems the government reinforces bad choices. I am in favor of the government helping to educate the population, having nutrition classes in school could be a start.

philosopher's avatar

If the FDA had done it’s job we would have had far less problems to deal with.
In Europe they began taking Antibiotics out of meat and chicken products years before us.
Many American cosmetics contain Parbeens a preservative know to cause skin Cancer.
Europe is a head on this too.
These problems are complex. There is no one simple solution.
@JLeslie I see your point but we need to stop companies from poisoning Americans. How?
I read labels. The current labels are difficult to read. The lettering is too small. I often take my husband because he was a Chemistry and Business Major. I not familiar with all the chemical names. I am sure most people feel that way.

JLeslie's avatar

@philosopher I guess I prefer an outcry from the public rather than the government.

I am just thinking as I am writing that it is hard to find typical food without the chemicals and preservatives. You can get prepared food that is organic and the flavor is more geared toward a vegetarians taste buds like Amy’s frozen or Kashi, or you can get super sodium high fat meals with all of the added chemicals you are concerned about. Where is the happy medium? Food that is appealing to the masses made within reason.

philosopher's avatar

@JLeslie
Unfortunately in most cases you have to make it yourself.
In Manhattan we have some restaurants that have organic food. I live outside of Manhattan and it is more difficult to find.
Emeril does shoes on Planet Green. You might be able to get information on his cite. . He currently does a show on the Planet Green channel. It is taped some place outside DC.
There are many web cite that cell Organic Food or minimally processed food.
Last Thanks Giving we bought many foods on line.

JLeslie's avatar

@philosopher I eat in those restaurants all of the time in NY, my sister is vegan and so when I visit her there that is how I eat, but the flavor is different than what the average person is accustomed to. It’s not just growing produce organically, and not using perservatives, it is more than that. I was not asking where to find recipes, but thank you :). I was making a comment on the pre-packaged food industry. That there is a niche out there to be filled.

philosopher's avatar

@JLeslie
Have you tried Paul Newman’s products?
I think you know but I find that many organic products contain excess salt.
I use every spice but salt and I taste better since I stopped cooking with salt; despite my allergies.
I eat minimally processed chicken and wild fish. No read meat.
I always feel that ready made tomato sauce is too salty and Organic chicken broth. Organic maybe more salty for some unknown reason.

JLeslie's avatar

@philosopher Yes, I like a lot of his products. I tend to cook from scratch quite often, and I have many vegetarians in my family, so I am able to go between both worlds so to speak. But, I am thinking of the clueless people who need a nudge in the right direction. We need to market tasty products to them that are healthier. Organic, and more expensive probably is not the way.

philosopher's avatar

@JLeslie
This should be the job of the FDA. They have failed us all.

DarkScribe's avatar

@cockswain A very important argument in favor of reducing salt is the fact that improving our health,

Reducing salt will only improve health if the person concerned is hypertensive or is consuming too much salt. Salt in itself in not bad – it is essential to good health. A person who reduces salt without a genuine reason will damage their health. A lot of people in the misguided belief that salt is bad do exactly that.

cockswain's avatar

@DarkScribe When I say “reduce salt” I mean to roughly 100% of the daily recommended value. If you pay attention to salt content of processed and fast foods, you’ll notice you can quickly exceed that in 1.5 meals. I understand our bodies’ need some salt for cellular regulation, just like it would also be a bad idea to eliminate sugar. Further, reducing salt now could prevent hypertension from ever happening.

DarkScribe's avatar

@cockswain I understand our bodies’ need some salt for cellular regulation,

I am aware of several young mothers who although in perfect health, have eliminated salt – as far as they can – from their family’s diet. This also eliminates iodine and in one case had actually created a major thyroid problem in a four year old verging on cretinism. Too many people think that salt is evil regardless of their health status or the demands of summer heat exercise on salt loss. They try to completely avoid it. In tropical climates – like mine – supplementary salt is often required. When I was in the Navy we were issued with salt tablets when in extremes of temperature. It stopped bad digestion, lethargy, and insomnia problems that many were experiencing.

cockswain's avatar

Again, I understand that eliminating salt is very harmful. I’m not sure what your point is though. Seeing the gov’t step in and reduce salt would lead some people to attempt to eliminate it?

DarkScribe's avatar

@cockswain Seeing the gov’t step in and reduce salt would lead some people to attempt to eliminate it?

Not all people would benefit by a reduction in salt content, and yes, it will reinforce the attitude among some that salt is really bad – now there are laws against it!

philosopher's avatar

In regards to salt see this study.http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100426151636.htm

bobbinhood's avatar

@cockswain I get the economic side of it. That’s actually the only part of the argument that seems to have any validity, because that is where one person’s health becomes everyone else’s problem. That said, I don’t think that the government can prevent diet-related health problems without compeletely overstepping their bounds.

As for “When I say “reduce salt” I mean to roughly 100% of the daily recommended value.” What does that even mean? People’s diets vary significantly. There is no way to say companies must manufacture food so that each serving has exactly X% of the daily recommended value of salt. That doesn’t work.

cockswain's avatar

@DarkScribe Too much fat is bad too, but eliminating it would be detrimental. If you were to hazard a guess, what percentage of people would you guess would be harmed vs. helped by a salt reduction? I’d like to stress I’m only saying reduce it down to sane levels of roughly 100% the daily recommended value. I get your point that people seeing gov’t regulation of it could give the wrong impression, but my guess is that education could counter it. It’s kind of like alcohol: some makes life better, too much makes it worse.

@bobbinhood Before we became an obese, diabetic, gluttonous, hypertensive nation, I would completely agree with your position. However, we were given the choice to moderate our diet, and we indulged ourselves too much. Now we’re kind of gross and unhealthy. In general I don’t want the gov’t to interfere with my choices, but I don’t really put this in the same category as, say, censorship. This boils down to our philosophies on the ideal role of government. The gov’t must correct for externalities, like pollution, and I see reducing salt as a measure to improve health and reduce long term costs.

You are correct that stating “100% of the daily value” is too vague. Perhaps one reasonable method would be to begin by noting the fact that people don’t eat just 1 serving of something. Generally a restaurant is going to put maybe 3 servings on your plate, and obviously people usually finish it. So if one serving had 20% of salt, which seems normal, now that individual just had 60% daily limit. Perhaps in the beginning, we would say “OK, let’s make the whole plate 20–30% the daily limit.” Really, the problem is the processed foods just have way too much. There is no question people will continue to consume them for convenience, so we can just make them less salty.

bobbinhood's avatar

@cockswain Fair enough. I get where you’re coming from; I just think the government is too big already. I am generally uneasy about them taking any more control both because they don’t do anything with efficiency, and because I wonder when the continual taking of control will end.

Your clarification about daily values makes more sense. Thank you for taking the time to explain. Once again, I get what you’re saying. I like the idea of restaurants using reeasonable amounts of salt; I just don’t favor the government regulating it.

All that to say, you’re right. We have different philosophies of the ideal role of government, so I don’t think there’s much more to say here besides an agreement to disagree. I appreciate that you presented yourself thoughtfully, because I do understand your side of the argument now. It’s nice to be able to have a pleasant and sensible discussion about political matters with someone that doesn’t agree. I personally don’t get to witness many discussions about politics that remain civil and logical, so I usually avoid them. Thank you for making this the exception (perhaps not an exception on Fluther (I wouldn’t know), but definitely an exception in my experience).

cockswain's avatar

That is one of the finest compliments I may have ever been paid. Thanks. It is one of the reasons I was attracted to Fluther is b/c I saw it as an opportunity to hopefully have a civil conversation about thorny subjects with intelligent people.

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