Today the New York State Assembly is voting on a bill that would effectively ban the usage of salt in all restaurants. Yes, for real. This subject surfaced a couple months ago, but was pitched as a sodium reduction over the course of five years. A gentleman named Felix Ortiz brought forward the bill, the same hero that championed the eradication of trans fats from menus and mandatory calorie postings at restaurants. (I can happily say I have not bought one tempting item from a Starbucks’ sweet case since the caloric posting went into effect!) The abolition of salt, however, is quite another story.
The bill goes something like this:
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: To prohibit restaurants from using salt when preparing customers’ meals. Customers will have the discretion to add salt to their own meal after it has been prepared.
JUSTIFICATION: A report issued by the World Health Organization indicated that three quarters or more of the sodium intake in the United States comes from processed or restaurant foods, Studies have also proven that lowering the amount of salt people eat, even by small amounts, could reduce cases of heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks as much as reductions in smoking, obesity, and cholesterol levels. The study also stated that if everyone consumed half a teaspoon less per day, there would be between 54,000 and 99,000 fewer heart attacks each year and between 44,000 and 92,000 fewer deaths.
Ok, I get that Americans are fat and getting fatter and something should be done about it, but I don’t think this bill is going to do much to help things along. First, it neglects the simple fact that salt is an important ingredient in preparing many common foods. Cookies. Cakes. Pasta. Seasoned meats. Soup. Kiss em’ goodbye!
The WHO study that supposedly supports this bill is also questionable. Are the numbers here for the whole nation or just the state of New York? What percentage of sodium intake is attributed to restaurant foods versus processed foods? These answers are important before we go send many of the nation’s top chefs scrambling!
One of the things I love about New York is its forward-thinking nature when it comes to food: my beloved St. Germain cocktail, the curious Pizza Cone, and even the trans fat ban. Luckily, nobody seems to be putting much stock into this proposed salt ban, including famed restaurant owners, which is good because it’s completely absurd. It seems that the corn lobbyists have gotten together to dispel rumors about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup (which coincidentally are mostly true…), so let’s hope that someone in the salt clan can rally the troops! This is a commodity that was once used as currency because it was so valuable and now we’re going to cast it by the wayside?! I think not.