Cut the Salt

Science, technology, and life.
Nov. 27 2008 8:29 AM

Cut the Salt

Happy Thanksgiving. Here's a request to those of you who are cooking today: Go easy on the salt.

In case you haven't heard, salt is the latest target of the health police. First smoking, then fat, now salt .

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

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In the case of smoking, I'm with the health cops all the way. As one country after another has banned indoor smoking, I've been fist-pumping . When the health crusaders turned to fat, I celebrated again . Trans fats? Don't need 'em . Soda? Disgusting .

But then they banned new fast-food restaurants in south L.A, and I freaked out . Cigarettes are industrial and nutrition-free, I figured. Trans fats and soda are artificial, too. But burgers and fries? The cooking's modern, but meat and potatoes are basic. They're food . You can't do that to food.

What happened to calories and saturated fat is now happening to salt: Public-health groups are clamoring for regulation, the FDA is holding hearings , and industry is adapting. Here's the latest from Reuters :

Burger King said on Wednesday it would limit sodium to 600 milligrams or less in all of its Kids Meals advertised to children younger than 12. ... McDonald's Corp already prepares its children's meals with less sodium. Its four-piece Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal ... has 390 calories and 570 milligrams of sodium. ... Burger King's currently advertised Kids Meal is its first to meet the new criteria. ... The meal has 340 calories and 505 milligrams of sodium.

That's still too much salt, but it's a start. And I'm with the health cops on this one. Salt is different from meat and potatoes. It's food, but it's also an additive. It's great that industry is reducing it voluntarily. If industry doesn't move far enough and the health cops want to restrict salt in prepared food, I won't cry. You can always add more salt from a shaker or from takeout packets.

Here's my pitch to the burger joints: Thanks for letting us choose whether to leave out the lettuce and tomatoes. Do the same with salt

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