Con: Don't create nanny state by regulating foods
May 2, 2010 at 12:02 a.m.
As the nation's health problems grow, lawmakers are turning to salt as one of the culprits. Some members of Congress are urging the Food and Drug Administration to limit the amount of salt in processed foods, calling the matter a "public health crisis."
Packaged foods and restaurant meals also face possible federal limits on sodium.
While research has shown that Americans in general eat too much salt, opponents of federal limits placed on manufacturers' use of salt say the move is going much too far.
"I think this is ridiculous. If you want to eat salt, eat salt, if you don't, don't," Angela Fric of Victoria said. "Does our government actually think we are incapable of making up our own minds on whether or not we should eat salty foods?"
Currently, the government has no limits on the amount of salt manufacturers can use in products, but a new report by the Institute of Medicine concluded that national action needs to be taken . The report recommends the Food and Drug Administration work with the food industry to reduce the amount of salt consumed each day by Americans. Those recommendations could lead to the first legal limits set on the amount of salt allowed in food.
For Fric, the possibility sets a dangerous precedence.
"When do the government regulations stop? Would you also like them to regulate how loud radios can be turned up? At the most, they should just make it mandatory for all products that have any amount of salt in them to state somewhere on the product the amount of salt," she said. "This is the land of the free, not the land of the free with the exception of (fill in the blank). Government regulations should be taken with a grain of salt. Pun intended."
Some organizations are also speaking out against possible salt regulations. The Grocery Manufacturers Association said that it wants to continue voluntary efforts to reduce salt in processed foods and that regulation is unnecessary, according to a Washington Post article.
According to at least one study, which has caused some experts to hypothesize that the brain regulates people's appetite for salt, and as such, people consume a set daily level of salt, federal regulations might prove to be useless. In a recent article in The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, researchers analyzed 33 countries and discovered that despite major differences in diet and culture, people generally consumed about the same amount of salt and the vast majority ate more salt than recommended in the American dietary guidelines. Dr. David A. McCarron, a nephrologist who led the study, has speculated that if regulations reduce the amount of salt in food, people might compensate by seeking out saltier food or by eating more food in general.
But if government regulations aren't the answer, what is?
Victoria resident Jose Diaz has been regulating his salt intake for years. As a child, he inadvertently ended up on a limited salt diet after his grandmother had to change her eating habits because of high blood pressure and diabetes.
"Eventually, I stopped using the salt shaker and started to notice the real flavor of food. Today I use seasonings widely when I cook and have noticed which ones actually contain salt," he said. "I think people should use their own judgment when it comes to salt and that the government is just whipping a horse that's already at full speed."