Ban salt from New York restaurants?
According to the NY Daily News, if Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has his way, yes.
The Brooklyn Democrat has introduced a bill that would ban the use of salt in New York restaurants – and violators would be smacked with a $1,000 fine for every salty dish.
“It’s time for us to take a giant step,” Ortiz said yesterday. “We need to talk about two ingredients of salt: health care costs and deaths.”
He claims billions of dollars and thousands of lives would be saved if salt was taken off the menu altogether.
There’s little argument that too much salt causes high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks
One teensy-weensy problem: the science isn’t clear that a ban will change a thing. Unlike anthropogenic global warming, the debate is NOT over. (See an excellent overview of the sodium debate in the NY Times.)
Dr. David A. McCarron, a nephrologist at he University of California at Davis, has called into question studies (especially from the UK) that claim it’s possible to get people to reduce their salt consumption. Surveys in 33 countries show that no matter where you are (unless it’s a sodium-challenged region) we all consume about the same amount of salt.
The results were so similar in so many places that Dr. McCarron hypothesized that networks in the brain regulate sodium appetite so that people consume a set daily level of salt.
If so, nutrition nannies like Ortiz could wind up exacerbating the country’s obesity epidemic.
…if future policies reduce the average amount of salt in food, people might compensate by seeking out saltier foods — or by simply eating still more of everything.
As for low-salt diets reducing strokes and heart attacks, in a recent article in JAMA, Dr. Michael H. Alderman of Albert Einstein College of Medicine has his doubts. He found that clinical outcomes were improved in fewer than half of the studies he surveyed. In fact, some showed worse outcomes.
“When you reduce salt, you reduce blood pressure, but there can also be other adverse and unintended consequences. As more data have accumulated, it’s less and less supportive of the case for salt reduction, but the advocates seem more determined than ever to change policy.”
Some people can wail away with that salt shaker until their food looks like Mount Fuji and not experience the slightest uptick in their blood pressure. Others of us are not so lucky. It makes sense for people with high BP and/or renal disease to watch their sodium intake. That’s a personal responsibility. But banning sodium use in restaurants is bad public policy that could cause further expansion of our already excessive waistlines.
Worse, it’s bad culinary policy too. To quote Tom Colicchio of Top Chef:
Anybody who wants to taste food with no salt, go to a hospital and taste that.