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March 10, 2010 11:03 AM   Subscribe

A bill to prohibit the use of salt by restaurant kitchens has been introduced to the New York Senate.

Conservatives are not amused.
Well, who would be?

The sponsor Felix Ortiz has already made some controversial proposals
posted by hexatron (185 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
In 2001, he introduced a bill that would lower the drinking age to 18

Well that's pretty sane.
posted by Artw at 11:06 AM on March 10, 2010 [16 favorites]



In 2001, he introduced a bill that would lower the drinking age to 18


But how will I enjoy my margarita without a salt rimmed glass?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:08 AM on March 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


By ordering a real drink.
posted by The Whelk at 11:10 AM on March 10, 2010 [53 favorites]


Dude, gross! No salt? What's next, no butter? Why don't I just stay home? Oh right, I do...
posted by Mister_A at 11:10 AM on March 10, 2010


The bill specifies food only. Margaritas would presumably be exempt.
posted by rusty at 11:10 AM on March 10, 2010


Ridiculous, that is all I can say.
posted by Think_Long at 11:10 AM on March 10, 2010


The Democrats should be just as critical of this guy as the Republicans. There's nowhere to go in politics after attempting to ban salt!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:11 AM on March 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Assemblyman Ortiz caught in lurid love affair with Mrs. Dash! See page 12.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:11 AM on March 10, 2010 [20 favorites]


However, I take issue with the post title. There is no such thing as passive seasoning.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:12 AM on March 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


What does the salt lobby have to say about this?
posted by amethysts at 11:12 AM on March 10, 2010


Painfully unfunny South Park episode raging against the Liberal Salt Crusade in 3 ... 2 ....
posted by joe lisboa at 11:13 AM on March 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


In 2001, he introduced a bill that would lower the drinking age to 18
Well that's pretty sane.


So was his working for the law banning cell phone use while driving, and his on-going efforts to get fast food restaurants to be required to provide nutritional information.

OutrageFilter will no doubt control this thread, but it all probably makes more sense when viewed in the context of his being elected to represent a district of economically disadvantaged constituents who are disproportionately affected by health problems resulting from high-salt, high-fat diets.
posted by aught at 11:13 AM on March 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'd be up for a bill that stopped people over-salting the fuck out of everything, but then you'd have to define a reasonable salt level.
posted by Artw at 11:13 AM on March 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Conservatives are not amused.

Salt is gay. Problem solved.
posted by three blind mice at 11:13 AM on March 10, 2010 [11 favorites]


Even a ban on foie gras would be impossible to pass. Pass the salt, please.
posted by kozad at 11:13 AM on March 10, 2010


Such a stupid proposal that it actually undercuts health advocates who are trying to get people to eat less salt.

And as the Economist commented in a recent article about Rangel's and Paterson's problems: :Thanks to a court ruling last year, which granted Mr Paterson the power to appoint Richard Ravitch as his lieutenant-governor, there is, at least, someone with gravitas and integrity ready to assume leadership. Those qualities have long been in short supply in New York’s capital, which has been nicknamed “Dysfunctional Albany” and is frequently cited as the nation’s worst state government—a title for which there is intense competition."
posted by bearwife at 11:14 AM on March 10, 2010


Conservatives are not amused.

Salt is gay. Problem solved.


Conservatives would then turn out to be the salt monster from Star Trek.
posted by Artw at 11:14 AM on March 10, 2010 [45 favorites]


He also got cell phones out of the hands of drivers. His tax on strip clubs was to provide funds for programs that deal with human trafficking, and his tax on alcohol was earmarked to organizations that treat alcoholism.

I use a cell phone, go to strip clubs, and drink, and don't think there is anything wrong with any of these proposals. As to the subject of salt? Doesn't bother me. I can always add it back in. And there's this:

Nearly 85% of the adult-sized meals at 10 popular chain restaurants have more than the recommended limit for total sodium intake per day, states the Center for Science in the Public Interest; nearly half had two days' worth of sodium in a single meal.

Considering the health risks of salt, this fact is more than a little alarming.

Finally, when conservatives start throwing around the phrase "nanny state," as they do in the second link above, you know there is more bluster than actual discussion going on. It's a rhetorical dead end, intended only to scare, delivered by a party who can't understand the hypocrisy of pretending to be opposed to a nanny state while they support policies consistent with a police state.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:14 AM on March 10, 2010 [16 favorites]


@thewhelk


By ordering a real drink.


Oh, sorry, I'll go back to injecting bourbon and sawdust into my eyeballs like a real man.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:16 AM on March 10, 2010 [33 favorites]


They should tell the conservative crowd that salt is used heavily in French cooking- they'd line up to ban it in a minute.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:17 AM on March 10, 2010


Arugh, the goiters!
posted by craven_morhead at 11:17 AM on March 10, 2010


it all probably makes more sense when viewed in the context of his being elected to represent a district of economically disadvantaged constituents who are disproportionately affected by health problems resulting from high-salt, high-fat diets

Umm... a noble thought, but wrongheaded. I defer to an actual nutritionist on this one.
posted by muddgirl at 11:18 AM on March 10, 2010 [11 favorites]


Salt is crucial to good cooking. You can't just add it at the end.
posted by unSane at 11:18 AM on March 10, 2010 [48 favorites]


Salt is gay. Problem solved.

Only to be replaced with the ugly specter of Republicans at all levels of government being apprehended hanging around salt licks and the resultant media circus blaming the salt....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:18 AM on March 10, 2010


My theory of salt in cooking is that it's easier to put it in than take it out, so I'm cool with it.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:19 AM on March 10, 2010


Economically disadvantaged constituents who are disproportionately affected by health problems resulting from high-salt, high-fat diets.

This makes no sense and if it did I would wish I was so "economically disadvantaged" that I could afford to eat in restaurants so often that it affected my health.
posted by three blind mice at 11:19 AM on March 10, 2010


it all probably makes more sense when viewed in context

I don't think so. His site makes it clear that this is a sincere bill, even though it would severely damage NY tourism (for a start). Salt is an important part of cooking, and making consumers sprinkle it on top themselves is not the same thing at all.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:20 AM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


This makes no sense and if it did I would wish I was so "economically disadvantaged" that I could afford to eat in restaurants so often that it affected my health.

Such as Burger King? I guarantee you, you can already afford it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:21 AM on March 10, 2010 [11 favorites]


So ... the people who are paying for others' high blood pressure medication by law want to make sure said others consume less salt by law.

No one should be surprised by this.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:22 AM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I imagine "restaurants" in this context covers a lot of fats food places, and yes, there are a lot of poor people who subsist primarily on fast food.
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


This makes no sense and if it did I would wish I was so "economically disadvantaged" that I could afford to eat in restaurants so often that it affected my health.

I love ya, man, but your privilege is showing.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:25 AM on March 10, 2010 [13 favorites]


I don't know if fats food is on purpose or a typo but it is supremely apt.
posted by Babblesort at 11:25 AM on March 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Such as Burger King? I guarantee you, you can already afford it.

Yep, but I can still cook a meal myself for much less. It just takes "effort" which costs nothing at all.
posted by three blind mice at 11:25 AM on March 10, 2010


Well that would be a smart decision.

The evidence does not show that people make smart decisions.
posted by Artw at 11:26 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


It just takes "effort" which costs nothing at all.

In what aisle of the organic grocer does one find "effort"? Next to the "poor people are just lazy" tracts or the "not-so-poor-people can afford to be obtuse" literature?
posted by joe lisboa at 11:27 AM on March 10, 2010 [30 favorites]


It also usually takes a kitchen.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:27 AM on March 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


Fuck it, I'm out. SEE? SALT IS EVIL!
posted by joe lisboa at 11:27 AM on March 10, 2010


I could perhaps see restricting the amount of salt used in a given meal, but outright prohibiting it? That seems crazy to me. Salt is incredibly important in any decent cooking process. I recognize that the bill is mostly taking aim at fast food joints, but it casts a wide net.
posted by Skot at 11:28 AM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yep, but I can still cook a meal myself for much less. It just takes "effort" which costs nothing at all.

Well, I don't think eating fast food for every meal is a good idea, and almost never eat it, but that's beside the point. There are people who do, and it's and for their health, and the ridiculously high salt content of the food is part of the reason.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:28 AM on March 10, 2010


Wow! What a remarkably shitty idea!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:28 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


So ... the people who are paying for others' high blood pressure medication by law want to make sure said others consume less salt by law.

No one should be surprised by this.


Man, I don't live in New York to save money. I'm here to eat!
posted by grobstein at 11:29 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is just silly.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:29 AM on March 10, 2010


Indeed there are many people who eat nothing but fast food. Some good points have been raised on Sen. Ortiz's motivations, but this bill is obvious grand-standing, and, while designed to provoke discussion, I fear that it will succeed only in reinforcing "nanny-state" stereotypes. So while I appreciate the gesture on the one hand, I feel pretty strongly that it is a mistake that may actually make it harder to enact any sort of common sense-based regulations on what people are served under the increasingly broad label of "food."
posted by Mister_A at 11:29 AM on March 10, 2010


This is one of the stupidest things I have ever heard, and was obviously conceived of by someone that has never ever cooked a meal in his life.
posted by gnutron at 11:30 AM on March 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


By ordering a real drink.
Says the man who has obviously never had a real margarita.
posted by Floydd at 11:32 AM on March 10, 2010 [6 favorites]



Yep, but I can still cook a meal myself for much less. It just takes "effort" which costs nothing at all.


And access to good ingredients. Also, if you're working long hours "effort" does cost something.

Boy, that fatnutritionist link is really messed up. The exact same arguments she makes - how can eating what you want be wrong? - all apply to well, drug users and smokers. Sometimes it is and, yes, it sucks that there are asshole holier-then-thou writers out there that try and make people feel bad about themselves. But, geez, dont confuse the messenger with the message.
posted by vacapinta at 11:33 AM on March 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


There must be a way to curtail excessive salt use in "ten chain restaurants" and others of their kidney without an absurd ban on salt tout court, which, as others have noted above, is not an optional component in cooking and can't simply be added at the end with the same effect. (I wonder if he would also ban cured meat; I hear salt is involved there.)

And a margarita is tequila, triple sec, and lime juice; what's fake about that?
posted by kenko at 11:34 AM on March 10, 2010


Pretty sure the nastier grade of chicken pieces for restraunt use comes swimming in brine because it's just on the edge of going off.
posted by Artw at 11:36 AM on March 10, 2010


The law as proposed is stupid and the people asserting that economically disadvantaged people should just "make more effort" are assholes.

See? Everybody's right!
posted by The Bellman at 11:36 AM on March 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


A well made margarita is a sublime pleasure.

And, as Pierce Brosnan says in the movie The Matador, margaritas always taste better in Mexico City. Margaritas and cock.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:36 AM on March 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Jesus fuck. How about they just tell everyone to enjoy the soylent green.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:36 AM on March 10, 2010


In what aisle of the organic grocer does one find "effort"? Next to the "poor people are just lazy" tracts or the "not-so-poor-people can afford to be obtuse" literature?

Next to the check-out. If you can afford Burger King you can afford the grocery store. Cooking for yourself - and even buying fruits and vegetables that do not need to be cooked in a kitchen - is not difficult.

Burger King is a choice.
posted by three blind mice at 11:37 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Margaritas and cock.

It's kind of a chicken and egg problem with these two.
posted by The Whelk at 11:38 AM on March 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Sputter! You may as well ban sunsets and laughter if you ban salt from food. Setting a legal limit, at least, could be argued but an outright and full ban? That's simply Sisyphean foolishness.

No cook worth... No cook would be happy with this.
posted by cheap paper at 11:39 AM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


The exact same arguments she makes - how can eating what you want be wrong? - all apply to well, drug users and smokers. Sometimes it is and, yes, it sucks that there are asshole holier-then-thou writers out there that try and make people feel bad about themselves. But, geez, dont confuse the messenger with the message.

I assure you that you've misinterpreted what she's saying, vacapinta.

Some people are disordered eaters. Telling them to "eat what they want" is of course dangerous. The majority of us are perfectly capable of eating what we want, when we want it, with no ill effects. The thrust of the article I linked to is that it is vastly more important that people have enough to eat - enough calories, enough nutrients - than it is to ensure that they have the "right" things to eat.

So yes, cheap high-fat, high-salt food is better in many cases than low-fat, low-salt food, because often a family does not have enough money to procure enough of the low-calorie "healthy" food to satisfy their nutritional needs. A 500 calorie Big Mac for $1 is better than a 250 calorie Low Fat Mac for $1.

The best course of action is to ensure that all families have access to cheap, healthy foods, but disallowing salt is NOT "a first step" towards that. A first step would be, say, sponsoring local grocery stores in poor neighborhoods.
posted by muddgirl at 11:39 AM on March 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


There is no such thing as passive seasoning.

If someone else is cooking for you (restaurants, school lunches, etc.) and dumping unhealthy amounts of salt and other things into it, and you have no way to track it, that's close enough.
posted by pracowity at 11:40 AM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I forgot to add people with food allergies or intolerances.
posted by muddgirl at 11:41 AM on March 10, 2010


Next to the check-out. If you can afford Burger King you can afford the grocery store. Cooking for yourself - and even buying fruits and vegetables that do not need to be cooked in a kitchen - is not difficult.

This is a pretty tired discussion. I wonder if we really need to rehash it again. Some people will argue that one of the aspects of disadvantage is that your choices are constrained, by economics, availability, transportation and limited time. Others will argue people are simply making a bad choice.

Doesn't matter. There's too much fucking salt in the food a lot of people eat, and that can be addressed without figuring out whether poor people are to blame or not. Is this the best way to address it? That seems to be the subject of the thread.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:41 AM on March 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


If you can afford Burger King you can afford the grocery store

You may not be aware that grocery stores in disadvantaged parts of town often have higher prices than the stores elsewhere (excepting things like Whole Foods, obvs) for the simple reason that people who would shop there frequently have fewer transportation options. Or of just how cheap Burger King is, especially when you factor in time and infrastructure (you don't need to own any cooking equipment or staples).

Additionally, having a grocery store at your disposal is only helpful if you know how to cook. It is quite possible (sadly) to grow to adulthood without learning what to do with any of a wide array of foods and standing before them on the shelves can be pretty intimidating. There was an article in the Times recently in which a newly-poor couple had pounds of pinto beans which they didn't know how to use: they got them from the food bank but no one bothered to tell them what to do with them.

Things aren't as simple as you think.
posted by kenko at 11:42 AM on March 10, 2010 [20 favorites]


Bring your own salt?
posted by anniecat at 11:43 AM on March 10, 2010


Do these people not have kidneys and access to water?

Yeesh. Salt makes the food taste like the food. And it's not bad for you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:43 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Next to the check-out. If you can afford Burger King you can afford the grocery store. Cooking for yourself - and even buying fruits and vegetables that do not need to be cooked in a kitchen - is not difficult.

There are legitimate problems of access to fresh fruits and vegetables (“healthy food”) in poor communities. There are also legitimate time constraints for cooking for single parents with children and two jobs. While recognizing this as a problem, absurd grandstanding is not a solution.
posted by Think_Long at 11:44 AM on March 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yep, but I can still cook a meal myself for much less. It just takes "effort" which costs nothing at all.

Then why are employers so willing to pay for it?

Effort costs a hell of a lot when you are a single mom working two jobs. You can't break out the balsamic vinegar and spend 3 hours in the kitchen cooking.
posted by DU at 11:44 AM on March 10, 2010 [19 favorites]


As to the subject of salt? Doesn't bother me. I can always add it back in.

You cannot, actually.

I mean, of course you can add salt to anything after it's cooked. Just like any ingredient: We could ban restaurants from cooking with cheese and tell people, "You can sprinkle it on your pizza at the table." But adding the ingredient after the fact is very, very different from adding it during cooking. Salt is crucial to developing flavors.
posted by cribcage at 11:44 AM on March 10, 2010 [13 favorites]


(To Burger King or not might be a choice for you, with the knowledge and means you have at your disposal, but to assume that everyone who ends up there is basically like you, only they made different choices, is the very definition of enwhitelment.)
posted by kenko at 11:45 AM on March 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yep, but I can still cook a meal myself for much less. It just takes "effort" which costs nothing at all.

I sympathize with the idea that the ability to have other people prepare your meals for you represents some measure of wealth, but it's really pretty tough to go very much less than the cheapest stuff on a Burger King menu. Unless you're comparing a sandwich costing a dollar or two to ramen noodles or something; but making your own sandwich is going to cost a significant fraction. The industrial food machine is pretty good at shaving down and compressing its costs and process, whether or not the output is especially palatable.
posted by XMLicious at 11:47 AM on March 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


This reminds me a bit of our most hilarious unintentionally-camp local restaurant "reviewer," who tends toward malapropism and does things like describe soup favorably "not a bit salty" as her way of saying "not oversalted."

Just adding to a finished dish isn't really the way seasoning food works. The resultant bland dish would ask for a whole lot more salt added "at the end" than it would have if prepared properly.

Now, if he wanted to take the salt-shakers off the tables in restaurants, that would probably reduce salt consumption according to the guidelines quoted in the bill.
posted by desuetude at 11:47 AM on March 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Doesn't matter. There's too much fucking salt in the food a lot of people eat, and that can be addressed without figuring out whether poor people are to blame or not. Is this the best way to address it? That seems to be the subject of the thread.

I guess I could get behind a set of ‘minimum nutritional standards’ enforced by the FDA (ha!) or something. It makes sense that a restaurant be culpable for at least some of the unhealthy content of their foods, just as cigarettes and alcohol are responsible for their own brands of long-term poison.
posted by Think_Long at 11:48 AM on March 10, 2010


I can understand that salt might be needed to effect certain chemical interactions in cooking, but to use it simply as extra flavoring? Not sure I get how that's generally necessary (but then, I'm not much of a cook). I think it's like the difference between adding sugar to a cup of coffee, or not. It's a choice not a necessity.

However, banning things often increases people's desire for them. Might there develop the restaurant equivalent of speakeasies where people would go to have meals illegally loaded with salt? "Yeah, baby, gimme $5 and I'll tell you where you can get chips and salsa all full of that demon salt. Pure, uncut NaCl, baby."

I voluntarily stopped adding salt to food (which was already cooked) as a teen and I'd like to think that's one of reasons why I've avoided my ethnicity's tendency toward hypertension. The key word is "voluntarily." Banning restaurants from adding salt seems like a good idea on the surface but maybe more public education would be a better way to go about this.

New on NBC: Law and Order: Salt Detection Unit
posted by fuse theorem at 11:48 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Big deal. Not only is this far from the most ridiculous thing currently happening in NY state politics (if only...), stupid bills get proposed at the state level all the time. It takes little effort, and just generates publicity. They never go anywhere.
posted by mkultra at 11:52 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]



Fuck it, I'm out. SEE? SALT IS EVIL!


Hey, hey, hey -- no salty language around here!
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 11:52 AM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


in some places - like where I live - the fast food joints are open *hours* longer, both late and early, than the grocery stores. If your work regimen includes a couple of jobs and a long commute to the exurbs (no, not the drive til you qualify exurbs, the exurbs your family has always lived in), time and fatigue become a huge factor in preparing meals.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:52 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


3bm, cooking for yourself is actually fairly difficult. It takes years of practice and a fair range of instruments (at the very least, a pot, a pan, a heating element, a spatula, a large spoon, a chef's knife and a decently stocked pantry for staples like salt (said stocked pantry, btw, is a rather expensive entry barrier in and of itself)). Furthermore, cooking for yourself and making something that tastes as good as a Burger King (face it, it tastes good to a lot of people) is way way way harder than driving up to a window and saying "A super-sized #2, please".
posted by oddman at 11:54 AM on March 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


New York State, you will pry my goddamn salt from my cold, dead hands.
posted by elizardbits at 11:54 AM on March 10, 2010


I have to agree with mkultra. If we descend into every ridiculous proposal that goes into state legislatures (proposals, not even laws coming out!) we can keep busy ad nauseum. This ain't worth its salt.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:55 AM on March 10, 2010


This reminds me a bit of our most hilarious unintentionally-camp local restaurant "reviewer," who tends toward malapropism and does things like describe soup favorably "not a bit salty" as her way of saying "not oversalted."

OMG I love her, desuetude.
posted by Mister_A at 11:56 AM on March 10, 2010


Nice. Surely somebody has already made a 'getting salty' joke.
posted by box at 11:58 AM on March 10, 2010


I think it's like the difference between adding sugar to a cup of coffee, or not. It's a choice not a necessity.

Get the bloody hell away from my bloody coffee lest I bite thee!
posted by Mister_A at 11:58 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is not a liberal/conservative issue. It's a libertarian/authoritarian issue.

You can be the most liberal person in the world and think that a law against salt in restaurants is the dumbest fucking thing you've ever heard of. Trust me.
posted by callmejay at 12:01 PM on March 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


fusetheorem, adding salt while cooking is very different than adding sugar to brewed coffee. Let me put it this, a majority of the desserts and sweets that you are likely to eat require salt, even super sweet confections like merengue. If you remove salt from the recipes the results are really poor.
posted by oddman at 12:02 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Salt is an integral ingredient in most cooked dishes. The phrase "properly seasoned" usually refers to the correct amount of salt and pepper, both of which serve to bring out and enhance the flavors of the other ingredients.

Adding salt after the cooking process will get you a bland, salty dinner.

In a state that makes the majority of it's tax revenues from a city that is known for it's world class restaurants, from which huge amounts of tax revenues and licensing fees are produced, this is a ridiculously short sighted and ignorant proposal.
posted by newpotato at 12:03 PM on March 10, 2010


Mmm... can't wait to enjoy a salt-your-own spoiled pastrami on over-risen rye with a mushy pickle...
posted by bethnull at 12:03 PM on March 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


The basic recipe for bread has 4 ingredients. Flour, water, yeast, and salt. Anyone who's ever tried to salvage a loaf of bread baked without the final ingredient knows how important it is to have the salt present during the baking and not applied to the top afterwards. The end result is so bland it sucks the flavor from out of your mouth. Missing that key 1/2 teaspoon has the power to ruin all that is good and beautiful about fresh baked homemade bread.

I won't even begin to rant about how this affects everything else. Gnutron is right, the author of this bill never cooked a meal from scratch in his life.
posted by hindmost at 12:04 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The old king's birthday arrived, and the two oldest daughters brought him presents that were very necessary, but at the same time extremely expensive. However, the youngest daughter brought him nothing more than a little pile of salt in a decorated container. When the king saw her present he became very angry, and he drove his daughter out of the castle, forbidding her ever again to let herself be seen by him.

Ah, Cordelia...
posted by kipmanley at 12:05 PM on March 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can understand that salt might be needed to effect certain chemical interactions in cooking, but to use it simply as extra flavoring? Not sure I get how that's generally necessary (but then, I'm not much of a cook). I think it's like the difference between adding sugar to a cup of coffee, or not. It's a choice not a necessity.

I'm not much of a cook either, but I think there's obviously quite a huge difference between coffee and actual cooking. Unless the only thing you cook is soup. Salt is essential to cooking many many things.

Of course, most restaurants do in fact oversalt the crap out of everything, but banning it altogether would be ridiculous. You might as well ban bakeries from using sugar. You can always sprinkle some on your donuts afterwards!
posted by kmz at 12:05 PM on March 10, 2010


Salt makes the food taste like the food. And it's not bad for you.

Too much sodium can indeed be bad for you.

But there are two huge problems with this legislation: the obvious one that some salt is a key part of cooking and flavor, and the lurking question of just how this would be enforced. It wouldn't make me sad to see fast food places forced to comply with a sodium threshold, but how would that work for "regular" restaurants? Would the chefs have to measure the sodium per dish somehow? Or would that be a job for food inspectors? What would the punishment be for a restaurant that oversalted, and how would it be imposed?

Plus I'm tired of legislators that give tea bagger types more ammunition. Good intentions don't make up for idiocy.
posted by bearwife at 12:07 PM on March 10, 2010


Plus I'm tired of legislators that give tea bagger types more ammunition.

When all you are is a gun, everything looks like ammunition.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:12 PM on March 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


There's too much fucking salt in the food a lot of people eat, and that can be addressed without figuring out whether poor people are to blame or not.

There's too much of a lot of unhealthy things in a lot of places. If salt is in your top 100 list, you need to start reading more.

By the way, it's interesting hearing the "poor people don't have access to cheap, healthy food" argument here. Is this a New York thing, or a general U.S. thing? I live in Las Vegas, and often go to the poor (read: Mexican) neighborhood markets for super-cheap, high quality produce and meats.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:12 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bread and pastry would get laughably interesting. All of the bakeries I know make the bulk of their money from commercial accounts -- selling to restaurants. Without those accounts, doors would shut, then all of your bread would be made by Wonder. (Upside: baked goods would never go stale! Never.)
posted by heyho at 12:15 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is this a New York thing, or a general U.S. thing?

Corner bodega grocery stores in New York often seem to have nothing that isn't 10 years old, covered in dust, and filled with rat droppings. They don't actually function to sell food, but as a front for selling weed.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:19 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, I guess this is the thread where the mefites who can't cook out themselves.
posted by ryanrs at 12:19 PM on March 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Is it possible Felix Ortiz is a product of the American educational system and is concerned about feeding the known toxins of sodium and chlorine to unsuspecting consumers?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:19 PM on March 10, 2010


Alton Brown on salt in cooking.
posted by ericb at 12:22 PM on March 10, 2010


God damn it! Look people, do not - DO NOT - do things that force me to agree with the fucking FREE REPUBLIC! I don't take well to that sort of thing.
posted by Naberius at 12:25 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Alton Brown's Salt 101.
posted by ericb at 12:25 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


You work for Diamond Crystal, don't you, Eric b.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:27 PM on March 10, 2010


Alton Brown Good Eats: Eat This Rock.
posted by ericb at 12:32 PM on March 10, 2010


I didn't think that salt consumption caused hypertension in otherwise non-hypertensive people, I thought it was that sodium exacerbates high blood pressure in those already prone to it?
posted by desuetude at 12:35 PM on March 10, 2010


Conservatives are not amused.
Well, who would be?


I'm amused.

3bm, I don't mean to pile on, but I also think you're off base. My wife and I are both well-paid, we work reasonably palatable ~40-hour weeks, and both of us have spent years learning how to cook (one side perk of parenting is a massive improvement in your short-order cooking skills).

We have a car and access to 3-4 quality grocery stores (Safeway, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and some discount stores). I keep (mostly) vegetarian and do not buy or cook meat.

Every weekday (almost), I cook dinner for my family and my daughter. I get off work at 4, pick up my daughter from daycare at 4:45, get home by 5-5:15, diaper/play/read/clean house for 30-45 minutes, start on dinner, and then try a million and one tricks to get dinner done by 6:30 or before my daughter ends up bawling, looking up at me with tears streaming down her face, and hanging on my legs like it's the end of the world while I try to chop vegetables and cook.

It's hard, despite all of my advantages. I know that buying fast food would be cheaper and (much, much) easier than making it myself. If I didn't have a car, or wasn't able to shift my work schedule ahead a few hours (7-4) or if I didn't have a decent grocery store, those fast-food options would become very hard to resist from time to time. And once you get used to that easy, full-belly/low-effort feeling, I can see how it can snowball.

If you're low on money (or time (same thing)) and need calories, it's almost impossible to beat fast food. Or what XMLicious said.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:40 PM on March 10, 2010 [11 favorites]


It's more than banning simple ground up rock salt though - the wording of the bill seemed to suggest that all salt in any form would be banned. So no stocks, no soy.

It would cripple cooking completely.

Limiting salt levels in fast food may be one thing, but banning it is just dumb.
posted by sycophant at 12:41 PM on March 10, 2010


Yep, but I can still cook a meal myself for much less. It just takes "effort" which costs nothing at all.

Oh christ, not this bullshit again.
posted by electroboy at 12:44 PM on March 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


In defense of salt

According to Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking," salt in boiling water for vegetables helps to soften them quicker, letting you cook them for a shorter period of time and preserving their nutrients; add enough salt -- 2 tablespoons per quart -- and you create an equilibrium so that the vegetables' nutrients won't leach to the water. (Two tablespoons might seem like a lot of sodium, but remember that most of it stays in the cooking water, not your food.) It tightens up the proteins in bread, giving it better rise; it helps vegetables ferment and pickle; it causes meat to soften and absorb moisture before cooking, making it tender and juicy.

...

Eighty percent! Eighty percent of our sodium intake comes from manufactured, processed food. Much of which is hidden sodium, inherent to the processing, but not to real food: sodium benzoate (preservative), sodium caseinate (thickener), sodium nitrate (meat cure), sodium phosphate (emulsifier), MSG.
posted by hindmost at 12:44 PM on March 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


The anti-salt people realize that salt is essential for human muscle function, don't they? There was a reason Gandhi went on that march, you know.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:44 PM on March 10, 2010


It would cripple cooking completely.

This.

Limiting salt levels in fast food may be one thing, but banning it is just dumb.

And this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:46 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read the bill and initially I thought "well, maybe we need a definition of preparing and that they mean more seasoning already cooked food with supplemental salt," and then got to the bottom of the bill, and realized that no, this is in fact nuts. Unsalted nuts.

That being said, when I started paying attention to sodium content, especially in ready-to-eat microwaveable meals, it was terrifying. I could get 50% of my daily sodium content from a 250-calorie zappable piece of lasagna, for instance. I can only imagine how salt-choked a fast-food burger or portion of fries must be. Actually, it's pretty easy to find out.

The American Heart Association currently recommends consuming less than 1500 mg of salt per day. A healthy diet ballparks at around 1500-2500 calories per day.

So wouldn't it make more sense to fine any establishment serving food items with more than 1000 mg of salt per 1000 calories? Easy to know, easy to test, easy to remember. It might still push a lot of reasonable foods over the line, but I'm not a good enough food scientist to know what those are.

This would, er, eradicate a lot of fast foods in their current state (A Big Mac, eyeballing it, has about 2x that limit). And it wouldn't prevent anyone from eating 5000 calories per day and busting their sodium limits through overconsumption, but it wouldn't be batshit insane as legislation goes.
posted by Shepherd at 12:46 PM on March 10, 2010


The basic recipe for bread has 4 ingredients. Flour, water, yeast, and salt. Anyone who's ever tried to salvage a loaf of bread baked without the final ingredient knows how important it is to have the salt present during the baking and not applied to the top afterwards.

One summer, working as a bread baker for a pizza place (they wholesaled bread to other restaurants in the area), I forgot the salt for one batch of bread (it was 3 o'clock in the morning, and I wasn't quite awake yet). I only realized it when it was in its second rise and behaving...oddly. I baked it off anyway, hoping it wasn't ruined. When I bit into a loaf I immediately spit the mouthful into the trash - I'd never thought about how awful bread would be without salt. It really does suck all the flavor out of your mouth.
posted by rtha at 12:46 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Now, if he wanted to take the salt-shakers off the tables in restaurants, that would probably reduce salt consumption according to the guidelines quoted in the bill.

That's what I actually figured the bill was suggesting, because that could almost be a reasonable reaction, particularly when you notice how often people automatically salt before they even bother to taste the food.

But taking it out of cooking process itself? Madness.
posted by quin at 12:46 PM on March 10, 2010


Madness? THIS IS SPARTAn use of salt.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:55 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hurf durf salteaters!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:56 PM on March 10, 2010


So, basically this guy wants to outlaw pickles.
posted by electroboy at 12:57 PM on March 10, 2010


As a life-long resident of New York State, allow me to say this:

STOP FREAKIN' WORRYING ABOUT HOW MUCH FREAKIN' SALT PEOPLE CONSUME AND FIX THE FREAKIN' CORRUPT, NON-FUNCTIONAL GOVERNMENT IN ALBANY!

Thanks, I feel better now.
posted by tommasz at 12:58 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


HOW WILL WE PAY OUR CENTURIONS?
posted by The Whelk at 12:58 PM on March 10, 2010 [10 favorites]


I look forward to smuggling contraband baked goods across the Connecticut border.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:59 PM on March 10, 2010


HOW WILL WE PAY OUR CENTURIONS?

With these?

**warning** sexy ancient coins

Also, soldiers weren't paid in salt, part of their pay was for them to buy salt. Hence, salary.
posted by electroboy at 1:06 PM on March 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Let me put it this, a majority of the desserts and sweets that you are likely to eat require salt, even super sweet confections like merengue.

Merengue might, but I've no idea what that is. However, if you're talking about Meringue, that's just made from egg whites and sugar.

Merengue might contain salsa rather than salt?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:06 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good. I've got high blood pressure and have to restrict my salt intake. If I have to eat food that tastes like crap, I want everyone else's food to taste like crap too. Keep in mind I only want what's best for you.
posted by digsrus at 1:09 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn those are some sexy coins.
posted by Mister_A at 1:09 PM on March 10, 2010


Damn those are some sexy coins.

Hard to believe, but true.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:13 PM on March 10, 2010


You can only salt fries right after they are fried. Which means I'm going to have to salt my ketchup until there is a white crust on top, and stir it up with each french fry. Essentially, this is a bill to make my wife shudder while watching me eat. I'd like to tell the Senator that he didn't need to write a bill for that, it was going to happen anyway because I don't cut my food into small enough pieces.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:15 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


No biggie, just use more MSG.
posted by Tube at 1:17 PM on March 10, 2010


I'll wait for the inevitable lawsuit from Lot's wife.
posted by gimonca at 1:19 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


three blind mice: "Economically disadvantaged constituents who are disproportionately affected by health problems resulting from high-salt, high-fat diets.

This makes no sense and if it did I would wish I was so "economically disadvantaged" that I could afford to eat in restaurants so often that it affected my health.
"

I wish I were in jail so I could watch cable TV all day! I mean, god, how wonderful!
posted by symbioid at 1:19 PM on March 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


All of this "it only takes effort to cook food" and "if you can afford Burger King, you can afford to shop at the grocery store" is such unbelievable privileged bullshit.
What qualifies as a food desert? A cluster of blocks without a corner grocery doesn’t by itself warrant the label; an entire neighborhood, or a cluster of neighborhoods, without a mainstream grocery store—such as a Jewel, a Treasure Island, or an Aldi—almost certainly does....Chicago’s food desert lies entirely below Division Street, affecting a population that is overwhelmingly African American: about 478,000 blacks, compared with some 78,000 whites and 57,000 Latinos, according to Gallagher’s calculations.
So, well over half a million people in Chicago live in neighborhoods where they have no easy way to get any fresh groceries at all. In order to do so, they'd have to have access to a car (many don't), or take public transportation (the poorer neighborhoods have the least amount of public trans options, and they run on sparse schedules at best), and have the time to 1) get to the grocery store during business hours, 2) shop, 3) get home, 4) make meals. So please, do tell us again how easy and affordable it is to shop at the grocery store and cook your own food.
posted by tzikeh at 1:30 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


It might be a little tired, but Orwell's quote from The Road to Wigan Pier seems appropriate
“When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored and miserable, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit ‘tasty.’ There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let’s have three pennorth of chips! Run out and buy us a twopenny ice cream! Put the kettle on and we’ll all have a nice cup of tea!… Unemployment is an endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the Englishman’s opium.”
posted by electroboy at 1:32 PM on March 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Margaritas and cock.

Wait, is this the thread about state Rep. Ortiz or U.S. Rep. Massa?
posted by aught at 1:33 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


STOP FREAKIN' WORRYING ABOUT HOW MUCH FREAKIN' SALT PEOPLE CONSUME AND FIX THE FREAKIN' CORRUPT, NON-FUNCTIONAL GOVERNMENT IN ALBANY!

I hadn't realized we can only do one or the other. Thanks for setting us straight!
posted by aught at 1:34 PM on March 10, 2010


I live in Las Vegas, and often go to the poor (read: Mexican) neighborhood markets for super-cheap, high quality produce and meats.

The mercados here in Albuquerque are great for this sort of thing too. But, here people generally have access to more grocery stores because we're more spread out than in a dense urban environment, and many people have cars to drive to the store. If you live in a big city and you don't have a car, your options are extremely limited by what's nearby (even if you can take public transportation to the grocery store, you can only carry so much home). You're often stuck doing your food shopping at convenience stores, where your only options are processed food, and the prices are higher than at big groceries.
posted by lexicakes at 1:37 PM on March 10, 2010


I didn't think that salt consumption caused hypertension in otherwise non-hypertensive people, I thought it was that sodium exacerbates high blood pressure in those already prone to it?

This is what I think makes this different from other public health issues. My understanding of the issue--backed up by the Mayo Clinic link bearwife provided above--is that consumption of high levels of sodium is only a problem for a subset of people who are sensitive to it:
Some people are more sensitive to the effects of sodium than are others. People who are sodium sensitive retain sodium more easily, leading to excess fluid retention and increased blood pressure. If you're in that group, extra sodium in your diet increases your chance of developing high blood pressure, a condition that can lead to cardiovascular and kidney diseases.
I can't find the exact numbers right now with a cursory search of Google, but I recall that only about one-third to one-half of the population is actually sodium-sensitive, and only about half of all cases of hypertension can be helped by reducing sodium intake. From a public health perspective, it makes a lot of sense to craft a campaign that tells everyone to moderate their sodium intake--after all, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., and there's little "harm" in eating a low-sodium diet from a health perspective but potentially huge benefits in combatting heart disease (over the past half-century we've made huge strides in reducing the prevalence and lethality of heart attacks in no small part by starting to aggressively treat hypertension).

I'm totally on-board with the notion that people's health is significantly influenced by factors beyond simple willpower, and that it's appropriate for the government to take steps that recognizes that (e.g., subsidize less corn and tax soda). I think this particular legislation is an overreach, though, because there's a big difference between "nudging" people to make better choices through taxes/subsidies/better information and outlawing something altogether. The latter should really only be a policy solution when the substance in question has really detrimental effects on everybody (like transfats or perhaps cigarettes), and that's not even close to the case with sodium.
posted by iminurmefi at 1:40 PM on March 10, 2010


Amazing what passage of this would do for the restaurant industry in New Jersey.
posted by thivaia at 1:51 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, is this the thread about state Rep. Ortiz or U.S. Rep. Massa?

Surely we can't outlaw salty old sailors?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:54 PM on March 10, 2010


I have a friend who, years ago, went on a no-salt-on-or-in-anything-ever kick. We all humored her, because she'd cook for us, and we could add salt ourselves when we ate.

Until the day she baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies. WITH NO SALT. Several of us bit into the cookies, and immediately got up, without speaking, and threw the uneaten portion of our cookies in the trash. Then we made our friend taste one of the cookies. That convinced her that sometimes, salt is necessary to make things edible.

When I read this thread, the taste of those cookies came, unbidden, to my mouth. Blech. Anyone who doesn't understand that salt is a necessary, even vital, ingredient in many recipes, is, quite frankly, an idiot.

We also frequent a restaurant where they refuse to provide salt at the table - the menu clearly states that the chef seasons the food as it is supposed to be seasoned (it's a small place, she can be a food hard-ass). No one we've ever taken there has complained that there was not enough salt; the food is clearly appropriately salted and beautifully seasoned.

But I know that we are privileged to be able to eat at such restaurants, and to have that choice. I'm not opposed to requiring fast food joints provide sodium levels just like they provide calorie counts; more information is good, generally. But *banning* salt? See: idiot reference above.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 1:57 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


This has to be the dumbest idea since the invention of salt as seasoning.

$500 says this guy hasn't cooked a day in his life.
posted by flippant at 2:07 PM on March 10, 2010


"Merengue might, but I've no idea what that is. However, if you're talking about Meringue, that's just made from egg whites and sugar."

PeterMcD, oh how funny you are. So I used the Spanish spelling. I do that sometimes, because, you know, not everyone speaks your version of English exclusively.

Meringue can be made from just egg whites and sugar, but it can also have salt (and cream of tartar, and lots of other stuff). The salt both enhances the flavor and, when combined with an acid, acts as a stabilizing agent.
posted by oddman at 2:15 PM on March 10, 2010


This has to be the dumbest idea since the invention of salt as seasoning.

right, because salt-as-entree was a great idea?
posted by dubold at 2:16 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


All of this "it only takes effort to cook food" and "if you can afford Burger King, you can afford to shop at the grocery store" is such unbelievable privileged bullshit.

1 - i can't afford burger king every day so i don't know how poor people can

2 - it's like none of you have ever heard of microwaves, not that i'm going to claim that kind of food is the best for you - and don't tell me that poor people can't afford microwaves - the section 8 housing i used to live in came with them
posted by pyramid termite at 2:32 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, the more I think about this the more I realize that what we are seeing is just yet another example of a politician pandering to the powerful slug lobby.
posted by quin at 2:46 PM on March 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


STOP FREAKIN' WORRYING ABOUT HOW MUCH FREAKIN' SALT PEOPLE CONSUME AND FIX THE FREAKIN' CORRUPT, NON-FUNCTIONAL GOVERNMENT IN ALBANY!

I hadn't realized we can only do one or the other. Thanks for setting us straight!


I'm sure we can do both, but if recent history is any indication we won't do either.
posted by tommasz at 2:47 PM on March 10, 2010


From the sexy coins link:

These coins were made in Rome around the first century BC and they were paying for certain services, or they went as usual?

I'd like to imagine these are the 1st-century equivalent to the nudie playing cards that were the scandal of my elementary school playground.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:53 PM on March 10, 2010


This has to be the dumbest idea since the invention of salt as seasoning.

Huh?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:55 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a variety of different salts in use in foods. The health problems of excessive sodium consumption are not really related to the perceived saltiness of foods, but the various forms of sodium typically used as preservatives in commercial goods.

The amount of salt used in cooking, in restaurants or at home, is way, way less than you could ever get sick from (unless you have a pre-exisiting condition, and many of the problems associated with excessive sodium intake are related to genetic factors). It would be almost impossible to eat enough table salt in your food to cause any serious side-effects.

You'll die without salt faster than anything else: you need it for basic metabolic functions. And people are found to self-regulate their salt intake over a period of time, to maintain an amazingly consistent level, commensurate with it's importance to your continued existence. So while studies have found that people eat less salt on their food if you put smaller holes in the dispenser and so on, they just go and add a bit more salt somewhere else to make up for it.

Almost ninety percent of the average person's sodium intake comes from processed foods. Banning salt in restaurants would result in bland food, would mostly be unpoliceable, and would be *completely fucking pointless*.
posted by chrisgregory at 3:03 PM on March 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


A few years ago I started following the paleo diet, which in its strictest form proscribes all salt, since it is something paleolithic humans wouldn't have had access to in its refined form.

Things were going rather swell for a year or so until I started feeling dizzy randomly. Every time I stood up I felt like falling down. I took myself to the doctor where I was diagnosed with very very low blood pressure.

I took this as an excuse to discover salt. As soon as I started cooking with it I was like WTF THIS IS DELICIOUS. All that time I had assumed I sucked at cooking and didn't know some magical restaurant technique. Apparently the magical restaurant technique is freaking salt.

I was probably iodine deficient too...that's something that salt provides that is hard to get elsewhere. Either lack or salt or iodine could have caused my problems, but either way I feel much much better with my new delicious salty diet.

So few other foods contain iodine that deficiency is a real danger when restricting salt, especially with people like me who didn't grow up cooking and didn't know to add salt to foods.
posted by melissam at 3:24 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


kipmanley: "84Ah, Cordelia..."

The Austrian story you linked seems to be a local variation of one of my favorite fairy tales: Cap 'O Rushes. Cap 'O Rushes tells her father, the king, that she loves him as "fresh meat loves salt." After he kicks her out she dons a disguise finds finds work as a scullery maid in a great house. Inevitably the oldest son falls in love with her and wants to marry her, she makes sure the King is invited to the wedding feast but instructs the cook not to salt any of the food.
“That’ll be rare nasty,” says the cook.

“That doesn’t signify,” says she.

“Very well,” says the cook.

Well, the wedding-day came, and they were married. And after they were married all the company sat down to the dinner. When they began to eat the meat, that was so tasteless they couldn’t eat it. But Cap o’ Rushes’ father he tried first one dish and then another, and then he burst out crying.

“What is the matter?” said the master’s son to him.

“Oh!” says he, “I had a daughter. And I asked her how much she loved me. And she said ’As much as fresh meat loves salt.’ And I turned her from my door, for I thought she didn’t love me. And now I see she loved me best of all. And she may be dead for aught I know.”
I suggest someone serve Assemblyman Felix Ortiz a meal made without any salt...
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:25 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've recently noticed that my diet is a lot shittier than it should be, and have been trying to find ways to make it better. The trouble is, while I have access to grocery stores, I have very little time at all to cook, especially considering that my appetite for any food at all tends to come suddenly and have a half-life of about twenty minutes. I end up eating a lot of fast food even when I don't want to, simply because I need to eat something. And I need to stop. But it makes total sense to me that poor communities have very few choices in what to eat and that the things that they have access to are super-high in sodium. I've lived in some of those communities in my day.

That said, this bill makes no sense as the answer.

Look at some of Ortiz's other pet projects for context.

Problem: Human trafficking. Solution: tax strip clubs, which while not necessarily involved in human traffic at least share some culpability for creating a market for it.

Problem: Alcoholism. Solution: Tax alcohol to fun alcoholism treatment programs.

Problem: Distracted driving. Solution: hands free driving.

All of these at least make some degree of sense. Banning salt in restaurants to solve hypertension does not.

The bill itself doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense either, and makes me wonder whether Ortiz has any staffers working for him. Not more than a $1000 fine? For "each use" of salt? That seems a mite bit draconian, at the very least. Also, the bill could probably use a definitions section. What constitutes a "use"? If the chef makes a giant vat of soup, does that count as one use, or is it a use for every bowl ladled out of it? And what counts as "preparation"?

Ortiz seems to be taking his cue from New York's ban on trans-fats, which at least had a whiff of sense to it. Banning salt means that you can't cook.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:27 PM on March 10, 2010


I strongly suggest this retard for an elected office sit down and watch some Alton Brown and learn how salt is used in preparation of food.
posted by MrLint at 3:36 PM on March 10, 2010


Those Top Chef episodes filmed in New York are going to be very one-note from now on. "Total lack of seasoning..."
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:53 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


The trouble is, while I have access to grocery stores, I have very little time at all to cook...

No one has time to cook. That's why I cook a mountain of food one day a week, freeze it, and eat it as needed.

I started doing this when I was working full time to put myself through grad school (also full time). I didn't have time to cook every day, and couldn't even afford taco bell -- the cheapest fast food I like -- more than once a week. So the lack of time and/or lack of funds argument for eating poorly holds no water for me.
posted by coolguymichael at 3:58 PM on March 10, 2010


I've recently noticed that my diet is a lot shittier than it should be, and have been trying to find ways to make it better. The trouble is, while I have access to grocery stores, I have very little time at all to cook.

Please consider picking up a slow cooker and a decent slow cooker cookbook. Use the cooker on the weekend (or load and set in am when you go to work) and you'll be set for the week, with delicious and healthy and affordable food.

I applaud everyone who works to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to poor neighborhoods, but I also favor teaching everyone some techniques to eat more healthily when what's available is more limited.
posted by bearwife at 4:23 PM on March 10, 2010


I think it certainly makes sense to limit salt content in foods to say 1/3 of the FDA daily limit. As was pointed out above, the massive quantities of salt people consume have largely to do with preserving cheap food for indefinite shelf life.

To the question of how enforcement works:
Enforcement would probably be almost non-existent for small businesses. What's targeted here are large chains and corporations who are trading the health of their customers for better profits, by, say, adding enough salt to their burgers that they can live in storage for a month without attracting any microbes. So you check to make sure that McDonalds and Burger King are keeping their salt levels on target, fine the shit out of them if they don't, and life goes on.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:38 PM on March 10, 2010



I'd like to imagine these are the 1st-century equivalent to the nudie playing cards that were the scandal of my elementary school playground.


It was an attempt to standardize brothel prices in the provinces.
posted by The Whelk at 4:38 PM on March 10, 2010


fusetheorem, adding salt while cooking is very different than adding sugar to brewed coffee. Let me put it this, a majority of the desserts and sweets that you are likely to eat require salt, even super sweet confections like merengue. If you remove salt from the recipes the results are really poor.

Yes, I understand that salt may be required to create certain chemical reactions between the ingredients. I'm questioning the use of salt simply for flavoring. In my view, that is like adding sugar to coffee (unless, I suppose, you're trying to use sugar's potential "downer" effect to balance out the caffeine's "upper" effect).
posted by fuse theorem at 4:39 PM on March 10, 2010


Holy, shit, people! This is New York we're talking about here. Will no one think of the bagels‽
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:46 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ugh, no. Just require them to put the salt on the menu if it's over 30% of your RDA. Anything else is just a bit too intrusive.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:49 PM on March 10, 2010


YOU WILL TAKE MY SALT BAGELS FROM MY COLD DEAD PUFFY HANDS
posted by The Whelk at 4:50 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


This guy is a troll, right? Is that his logic? He's trying to act like a parody of a liberal to get a rise out of the talk shows?
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:53 PM on March 10, 2010


>The basic recipe for bread has 4 ingredients. Flour, water, yeast, and salt.

I make a lot of bread without salt in it. I use the recipe for no-knead bread from the Times and omit the salt and it tastes fantastic. In fact, people frequently tell me how good it is and ask me for the recipe.

I was probably iodine deficient too...that's something that salt provides that is hard to get elsewhere.

Iodine does not occur naturally in salt. It's added in there for public health reasons. That's why sea salt or fleur de sel de la camargue or whatever doesn't have any iodine.
posted by ekroh at 5:06 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


THIS is the way you negotiate with "conservatives." You put the absolute farthest-reaching legislation in front of them, then you compromise when the conservatives' heads explode. OK, well, we've established that there is a huge problem with salt in restaurant food...but you don't want to take it ALL out...great. What shall we do?

That's part 2 of the bill, which we haven't seen yet. I bet you something gets put in the books that leads to healthier food in NY.

I wish the Democrats in Congress and the White House knew how to do this. We'd have Universal Health Care by now.
posted by Chuffy at 5:13 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it certainly makes sense to limit salt content in foods to say 1/3 of the FDA daily limit.

I wonder what kinds of foods this would affect other than fast food. We know that some fast foods contain absurd amounts of salt, but what about other types of restaurants? Aren't there some dishes that just have a lot of salt in them? (Or not? I don't know.)

I'm perfectly fine with eating over 1/3 my daily salt intake in a sitting if it's for the good cause of deliciousness, because I'm not going to do it every day.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:27 PM on March 10, 2010


Back in 1991-1992, following a serious medical situation, I was poor for about two years.* I mean seriously poor. And I couldn't afford to go to Burger King. It would have been a treat I simply couldn't manage on any sort of regular basis. Primarily because you can't use food stamps at fast food restaurants, so it would have meant dipping into actual cash which was in abysmally short supply. Laying out a real, honest-to-goodness, George Washington cash dollar for a single meal at Mickey D's just wasn't on the radar of possibilities.

I pretty much lived on what food I could buy with my $104/month of food stamps plus what I got in the box of food from St. Mary's Food Bank once a month. Thank God for those bags of powdered milk and the big block of government cheese they used to have in there, along with the beans and rice as staples. The food stamps were enough to buy some fresh fruits and veggies and a little meat, enough to survive. I'd fix a large vat o' food (red beans and rice was a favorite because of the nutrition and the cheapness) on Sunday afternoon and eat leftovers from it for much of the rest of the week.

Now, my situation may have been anomalous (I don't think it was) but it at least provides one data point in support of the comment above that Burger King isn't always the cheapest food solution. YMMV.


*By the way, fuck our health care insurance system in this country.
posted by darkstar at 5:29 PM on March 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


150+ comments and nobody suggested charging some restaurants with Aggravated Assault? (assault, get it, a-salt? oh, nevermind)
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:30 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


fuse, imagine a life with no bacon, no smoked salmon, no gefilte fish (not so hard, the last one), no corned beef, no pastrami. Why? Preserved meats all use salt. It was alluded to upthread, but no salt, no bacon. No salt, no pancetta. No bread, at least none that you'd want to eat. Salt is a flavor, yes, but it enhances every other flavor in the dish, provided it's added at the right point.

Are fast food meals over salted? Heavily. McDonald's burgers are nearly inedible to me because they're so salty. But saying "no salt" in the kitchen is just stupid.

As that great domestic goddess once said, "The secret ingredient is salt!"
posted by Ghidorah at 5:43 PM on March 10, 2010


Yes, I understand that salt may be required to create certain chemical reactions between the ingredients. I'm questioning the use of salt simply for flavoring.

Salt isn't just in their for salt's sake. In addition to chemical reactions, it's hydrophilic, and the timing of adding it to meat dishes can greatly change the flavor.

What if I want to eat salad two meals a day and then gorge on a nice salty meal for dinner? 1/3 RDA ain't gonna cut it. Especially given how much fluid I usually drink.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:54 PM on March 10, 2010


It was an attempt to standardize brothel prices in the provinces.

I think it also helped communicate the type of services you were interested in, since you might not speak the same language.
posted by electroboy at 5:59 PM on March 10, 2010


I'm questioning the use of salt simply for flavoring.

This just blows my mind. But before I start ranting, answer me this: do you cook? Like real cooking, starting with raw meat and fresh veggies? I'm guessing you don't. Because proper salt usage doesn't make food taste salty. Saltiness is the flavor of too much salt.
posted by ryanrs at 6:00 PM on March 10, 2010


I'm questioning the use of salt simply for flavoring. In my view, that is like adding sugar to coffee.

Your view is wrong.

Ever eaten food that was "missing something"? It was almost certainly salt.
posted by Cyrano at 6:04 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, I understand that salt may be required to create certain chemical reactions between the ingredients. I'm questioning the use of salt simply for flavoring.

But that's also not the way cooking works. The chemical reactions between the ingredients are affecting both texture and flavor and an arbitrary limit on the amount of salt can't be determined to distinguish between the salt that's necessary for one aspect versus another.

Certainly food can be oversalted, but that's solved by being a better cook, not adhering to strict limits.

If you want to find a use of salt to limit, pick on added salt in processed prepackaged meals to act as a preservative, maybe, but that's a very fuzzy line, too. Cause, y'know, bacon.
posted by desuetude at 6:11 PM on March 10, 2010


I wish the Democrats in Congress and the White House knew how to do this. We'd have Universal Health Care by now.

The cynical part of me says that they thought that was the absolute farthest-reaching legislation.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:38 PM on March 10, 2010


I've already got hypothyroidism, but you probably don't.

Thing is, one thing that leads to hypothyroidism is iodine deficiency. Salt is iodized. Americans get plenty of iodine in your daily diet because we put salt in everything here.

Most of us could use less salt in our diet. But banning salt altogether is even more of a health risk than using too much salt.

Not everyone has to worry about high blood pressure. But iodine deficiency will mess you right up. In addition to hypothyroidism, iodine deficiency leads to goiter and cretinism.

Tl;dr version: Extremes are bad. A little salt is good.
posted by misha at 7:15 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Extremes are bad. A little salt is good.

But even as to the extremes, this is a rotten idea. (Not "dumb" necessarily, but rotten.) From time to time, I like excess salt. Craftsteak, back when it was a good restaurant, sprinkled sea salt over the dinner rolls and it was excellent. I half-joke that "French fries are my favorite way to eat salt," because sometimes a good, oversalted bag of fries, salt grains sticking in the still-hot oil, really hits the spot. Just like sometimes you want a little excess sugar (e.g., Pixy Stix), sometimes excess salt is a godsend.

Food is awesome. I understand that obesity is a problem, and more, that legislators need to look busy in order to win reelection...but really. The best part of being a grown-up and not living under a parent, hands-down, is the ability to eat whatever you want whenever you want it. Feel like eating a candy bar? Go for it. French fries for dinner? Rock on. No permission necessary. It never gets old.
posted by cribcage at 8:38 PM on March 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, announcing how you will be 'banning' salt is like the politician who blurted out... "let's sign that execution order for every man, woman, and child in our city & state."- When they really should have meant, "let's consider a stay of execution on that one person on death row."
People are arguing that it is needed as "seasoning"... this is true; it is a vital ingredient to life (via cooking)... Of course sometimes we all want "a little more of something 'bad' "... but I for one DO NOT want an EXCESS of BAD, to be the standard practice.

What Salt isn't needed for is acting as a fluid brine-bath for food to soak and absorb until it is 90+% salt/10% 're-textured meat product'. (or whatever it is they are doing at 'chain' restaurants to produce food that has THREE days worth of recommended intake.
THREE DAYS WORTH of reccommended intake of something that will make you dead sooner.

It's not that anyone wants to steal your salt... it's that they don't want to have to pry the salt shaker from people's cold dead hands.
There is a difference between providing a responsible service, and 'giving us whatever works'- just because (is it really cheaper to have an over abundance of salt? or just laziness to change, and entrenched manufacturing methods...)

Sodium is a nutrient found in table salt and many other foods. While the body needs some sodium to function, too much may lead to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Most Canadians consume more sodium than may be good for their health.


Sodium is needed in the body to regulate fluids and blood pressure, and to keep muscles and nerves running smoothly. The amount of sodium considered adequate to promote good health in adults is 1,500 mg per day. The United States Institute of Medicine (IOM) is commissioned jointly by the USA and Canada to establish the nutrient reference values that are used to set policies and standards. One of these reference values is the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL), which is the highest intake level that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects. Based on the IOM's UL, Health Canada recommends that adults do not exceed 2,300 mg of sodium per day.

Canada is one of the few governments in the Western world that has not tackled salt, a common dietary additive that is contributing to a deadly epidemic of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.


But don't feel bad Nation; canada! is also losing the war on salt... so we can relax; someone else is losing (more) @ a war. How Canada is losing the war on salt-G&M. (I want to formally guess out loud that it's because it gets lost amongst all the snow.) Besides, you can always just
'hustle over the boarder' up there, to CA, and receive yourself some salt care...
Canadians; initiate "Defence Scheme No. 1"

Since Health Canada recommends people aged 14 or older consume no more than 2,300 mg a day, that Red Lobster meal packs more than three days worth of sodium, in one sitting.

Dr. David Lau, an endocrinologist who specializes in diabetes and obesity, says many Canadians eat far more salt than their bodies need.

"The majority of Canadians eat twice the amount of salt we recommend, if not three times," he said.

Selected meals at fast food outlets are also among the saltiest, the CSPI notes, singling out the Half Chicken meal at KFC, the Bean Burrito at Taco Bell and the Beef 'n Cheddar sandwich at Arby's.
Pretty sure this isn't as simple as a "rich/poor" dichotomy. Everyone is getting the overload.
posted by infinite intimation at 9:29 PM on March 10, 2010


My wife has been purchasing "exotic" salts. From the pristine oceans, sun cured, etcetera.

I made the mistake of tasting the salts directly. And, OMG, I might never touch table salt again. The table salt is godawful. The real salts are yummy. The table salt actually hurts to taste. The more complex salts are somehow "softer," and have a lot of deep flavour.

I was rather surprised at the difference. If you ever have the chance to snag a bag of sea-/ocean-sourced minimally-processed salt, you've got to buy it. Just once, just to compare.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:24 PM on March 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here's what Cochrane Reviews has to say about the advice to reduce sodium intake in the general population:

http://www.mrw.interscience.wiley.com/cochrane/clsysrev/articles/CD004022/frame.html
posted by Ouisch at 3:24 AM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Basically -- it's not supported by evidence.)
posted by Ouisch at 3:34 AM on March 11, 2010


My wife has been purchasing "exotic" salts. From the pristine oceans, sun cured, etcetera. ... And, OMG, I might never touch table salt again.

Oh, cool; I keep meaning to try more exotic salts. I bought a sampler-pack thing of them for my sister for Christmas, mostly because it was in the impulse-buy section of a gourmet food store for a pretty good price. And indeed, I impulse-bought. I figured she'd do the sort of forced-smile "what a nice present" polite thing, but instead, her eyes LIT THE FUCK UP. She was all, "HOW DID YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I'VE BEEN WANTING SALT OF DIFFERENT LANDS???" and I played it off like, "Well, I guess I'm just a really intelligent and perceptive guy, you're welcome"
posted by Greg Nog at 5:06 AM on March 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I gave someone pink salt once. They said it was perfect for deserts.
posted by The Whelk at 6:50 AM on March 11, 2010


*note ot self, Greg Nog Likes the Salt Of Many Lands*
posted by The Whelk at 6:50 AM on March 11, 2010


Problem: Distracted driving. Solution: hands free driving.

Wait, What?
posted by HFSH at 9:36 AM on March 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Salt of Many Lands
posted by Artw at 9:56 AM on March 11, 2010


Then they came for the salters, but ..ARGH! having. massive. heart attack. Can’t. Type. At. Normal. Rate.

Here’s an idea, instead of hitting the restaurants with it – hit the suppliers. I don’t remember fry cooks at McDonalds standing over the grills shaking salt into every burger. Works out to the same goal, without hitting local Joe Guy restaurants.

“When all you are is a gun, everything looks like ammunition.”
Ah. That explains a lot.
*takes down Georgia O'Keefe painting *

“If you can afford Burger King you can afford the grocery store… Burger King is a choice.”

If you have a grocery store in your town.
(tzikeh’s link & verbiage regarding food deserts/Chicago is correct)

“i can't afford burger king every day so i don't know how poor people can”

I can’t afford to buy oranges for $1.80 apiece so I don’t know how poor people can.

‘Burger King’ is a red herring. Poor people don’t eat fast food all the time. Just more than someone who’s got more and better options. (Ever hands someone an extra french fry at a grocery store? Didn't think so).
And then habits develop. What, I go to the gym because I was born with the predisposition?
So poor folks drink and smoke more because there are more liquor stores and cigarette billboards in their neighborhoods? Gosh, how can they afford all that booze? I sure can’t.

Much as I despise fast food, I don’t dis the folks eating it. This law needs to be reworked. Again – it’s a supply chain and storage problem not an end user problem. Especially because of (as mentioned) processing.

Attacking the problem at it’s root – maybe give tax breaks to grocery stores in impoverished areas so people don’t eat the lousy food and don’t have to come up with the start up capital for a car or to build their own pantries and can just run down to the store instead of getting trapped by their own infrastructure – which I’m sure has nothing to do with the real estate dealings of the fast food corporations (because it would be just impossible to slide some money under the table to an alderman to change some zoning because hey, what politician would take that? Or to payoff a grocery chain to simply not do business somewhere when they have such fat profit margins at the stores they do have) – so they can make food for their families instead of treating them like lazy bastards or children we have to make impractical and unenforceable decisions for because they don’t know how to put down the salt.
But that’s just crazy talk.

Humans feed in their environments. Got a healthy environment? Odds are you’ll learn how to make healthy food in it. People aren’t failing to make healthy diets because they don’t know any better, but because they’re trapped by their environments.
(Same damn reason Inuit ate blubber all day. It’s not like they’d prepare fresh salads if they only knew better. (Although Caribou eyes are pretty tasty). Indeed, one of the reason they're able to survive in such an otherwise barren environment is because they treat(ed) food as communal property.)

There are poor people, at least here in Chicago, who go to the fridge – if they’re lucky enough to have one and the power bill has been paid – and there is nothing in there. No food. Start thinking about this from there. They're not going to prepare a meal no matter how talented they are at cooking. Best odds of sharing a communal meal is where?
Homeless folks too - typically very good at forming a microcosmic interdependent society and pooling resources.
You want to study a creature, look at its environment.
Out here people have link cards (which = food stamps). Disabled folks use them for Meals on Wheels.
Some people try to use them at farmers markets, but you have to have a point of sale terminal to get 'x' taken off the card, converted into paper coupons and the farmer has to take those and put them back into the system through the manual voucher process - gosh, easier than cash, no?
And there's the stigma of using food stamps, so you'd tend to stick to places where other folks go and it's easy.
Point being - if poor folks are that cornered by their environment, pretty obvious others aren't as well off.
I live in a nice suburb and (for me) it's a food desert. I drive past not just McDonalds, but Panera Bread, local pizza places, all that, saying 'there's nowhere to eat!'
And it looks like diversity, but most of the places in the area get supplies from the same chains and most of the same processed food is in the freezers and other places.
Only about 10% (if that) of what's at the Jewel is food (for me).
But again - it's not them, it's how we manufacture food. Hell, read 'The Jungle.' Doesn't matter how nice the resturant/store is if they're getting supplied by Jurgis Rudkus.
(There is one kind of prison where the man is behind bars, and everything that he desires is outside; and there is another kind where the things are behind the bars, and the man is outside.)

“This has to be the dumbest idea since the invention of salt as seasoning.”

Salt doesn’t change the seasons. The black helicopters stir up the winds and NASA beems rays from the space shuttle that makes tornadoes. WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!
posted by Smedleyman at 5:11 PM on March 11, 2010 [9 favorites]


I was rather surprised at the difference.

At various restaurants, I've had "tasting flights" each of salt; butter; and olive oil. The variety of each was amazing.
posted by cribcage at 6:32 PM on March 11, 2010


months and months go by and I finally notice that one of my favorite mefites has a new identity. he still cracks me up with his corny jokes though.
posted by caddis at 8:10 PM on March 11, 2010


Some people here have a mad hate-on for Whole Foods, but the one time I've been in one, I was wowed by the variety. Some of the salts were just plain fucking awesome. An olive selection that was superb. A great variety of cheeses. And the prices, for the quality, struck me as damned reasonable.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:04 PM on March 11, 2010


Some people here have a mad hate-on for Whole Foods, but the one time I've been in one, I was wowed by the variety.

For processed foods, I'm with you. I'm not a food junkie, but I can get lost looking through all the stuff.

The only beef I have against Whole Foods is that they have too much conventional produce (but I'm probably whining about out-of-season foods), and I would prefer to have the actual farm information available for each product.

I think the produce and fresh food is a little overpriced, but the processed stuff (drinks, cereal, milk, cheese, snacks, bread, pasta, tortillas, etc.) seems reasonable compared to the same products at other stores. Trader Joe's (also non-union) is cheaper in general, but the quality of products isn't as high (imo).

Whole Foods has a strong history of anti-union sentiment/behavior, but it also seems to treat its employees fairly well. Are Whole Foods non-union employees in better shape than Safeway's union employees? Honestly, I'm not sure.

The only thing I really don't like about Whole Foods is the name. 90% of the products aren't whole foods.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:45 AM on March 12, 2010


Also ...
In our tea-party flavored times, some might argue that government shouldn't have a role in righting the balance between cheap, unhealthy foods and more expensive, healthy ones, but such thinking ignores the role that federal policy already plays in food pricing.
- Why A Salad Costs More Than A Big Mac

I think government subsidization is an important point. The "industrial food machine is pretty good at shaving down and compressing its costs and process," true, but they also get a pretty big boost from federal governmental policy.

What is more ludicrous, a nanny-state law designed to reduce the amount of sodium in prepared food, or an active government policy that already encourages people to eat more fatty and less healthy foods?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:45 PM on March 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was curious about the diagram in your link there, mrgrimm, so I tracked down what appears to be the original PDF. Thanks, this is interesting, though I wish they'd explained how much of the subsidy they're counting as "meat, dairy" goes directly to producers and how much of it is subsidy of feed grain.

Also interesting is this related video from the same organization. (Mostly because it riffs on Larry Craig.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:14 PM on March 12, 2010


Article in the Times today about the obesity-hunger paradox.
posted by ekroh at 1:43 PM on March 14, 2010


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