12 March 2010

On banning salt

Felix Ortiz, a Democratic member of the New York City legislative assembly has introduced Bill A10129, a bill that would ban the use of salt in restaurant kitchens. The city's chefs would not be allowed to add salt to any of their recipes. Ortiz says it would allow consumers to choose whether they wanted to salt their meal.

The measure seems terribly nannyish, yet I must admit that as a geezer who eats out a lot and needs to watch his blood pressure, I would definitely prefer to salt my own food. Or not. I also trust my own taste better than the chef's whim when it comes this particular condiment. And, dammit, if food producers continue to deny us Mr. Otiz's choice, it's something I can readily support. For a bachelor, tinned soups, chili con carnes, stews, etc. can be a meal-time blessing, but for an old bachelor their salt content precludes them from my shopping cart. When you're watching your blood pressure, salt can become a poison.

My supermarket stocks few low-sodium products and very few salt-free products. Why is this? Aren't food manufacturers aware of the dangers of salt in an overfed society? Do they not read a daily newspaper? And why do they have to add salt anyway? Do they think consumers are incapable of managing a salt shaker? Of managing just this one item to flavour their food the way they like it? Apparently so.

If they don't catch on soon and start offering a wide range of salt-free products, legislators like Mr. Ortiz may have to decide for them. It wouldn't be the first time politicians have had to step in where business fears to tread. The health of the nation, to say nothing of the cost of Medicare, may demand it. And I'd like to try some of those soups and stews.

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