Friday, April 30, 2010

The Problem with Salt Soldiers

by Stephanie R. Murphy

Eighty years ago, the British colonial government of India imposed strict controls on the manufacturing and sale of salt, inspiring Gandhi and thousands of others to participate in the salt satyagraha. Now, it appears that salt has once again become an implement of control – this time, to be used by the American government against the people.

This article from the Washington Post, citing FDA sources who would only speak anonymously, claimed that the agency is considering a program to reduce the salt content of all processed foods in America. A report from the Institute of Medicine and a press release from the FDA confirmed the rumor. The FDA’s press release emphasized that while the agency has not yet begun to regulate the amount of salt in foods, it will "thoroughly review the recommendations of the IOM report" and make plans to "work with other federal agencies, public health and consumer groups, and the food industry to support the reduction of sodium levels in the food supply."

The Institute of Medicine report revealed more about the mechanisms of how the policy would be implemented: "the goal is to slowly, over time, reduce the sodium content of the food supply in a way that goes unnoticed by most consumers." A few months earlier, this article in the New England Journal of Medicine had promoted the idea of using government regulations to achieve population-wide reductions in dietary salt intake, claiming that such regulations would prevent thousands of heart attacks and strokes, which are caused by hypertension (high blood pressure), and would save up to 92,000 lives per year in the US.
It almost seems surreal that a government agency would begin to scrutinize the list of ingredients in every single food product in America and then "work with" – that is, force – their manufacturers to ensure that incrementally less salt was added to the foods over time. (What would this agency be called, the Department of HomeBland Security?) Yet, this is the reality with which we are faced.

Read the rest here.

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