May 31, 2010

A Must Read: The Salt Fight

This is a great article from Michael Moss in the New York Times on the food industry's long and rugged fight to fend off having to reduce salt in its products. And, remarkably, what sticks out to me most -- more even than the almost obscene reliance of the food industry on sodium to make their food and the tobacco-industry like divert and delay tactics -- are these two statistics:

The food industry releases some 10,000 new products a year, the Department of Agriculture has reported, and processed foods, along with restaurant meals, now account for roughly 80 percent of the salt in the American diet.

And not as if anybody needed any more evidence that the United States now more closely resembles an oligarchy than a democracy, but this little bit stands out as well (bold emphasis mine):

Sugar and fat had overtaken salt as the major concern in processed foods by the 1990s, fueling the “healthy” foods market. When the F.D.A. pressured companies to reduce salt in those products, the industry said that doing so would ruin the taste of the foods already low in sugar and fat. The government backed off.

“We were trying to balance the public health need with what we understood to be the public acceptability,” said William K. Hubbard, a top agency official at the time who now advises an industry-supported advocacy group. “Common sense tells you if you take it down too low and people don’t buy, you have not done something good.”

You have not done something good for the company. But you have done something good for the country and public health. But we all know what's more important to about 99% of elected officials in this country.

Read the whole thing. This is what good newspaper reporting and writing is all about.

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