Rubbing Salt in the Wound: NYC Assemblyman Proposes Ban on Salt in Restaurants

With rising public interest and awareness in the relationship between food and health, city officials across the country have jumped aboard the grassroots bandwagons with enthusiasm, proposing and then passing laws to eliminate trans-fats from restaurant foods, require restaurants to prominently display calorie and other nutritional information on their menus, grade food establishments on a letter-grade scale, and tax soda/soft drinks sold in stores. The debate that has resulted has been heated, but mostly civil and sparking genuine opinions about the pros and cons of such government involvement in public dietary guidelines and eating choices. Even if one disagrees with the proposed legislation, and whether the laws work or not, at least leaders are making points based on informed research, right?

Apparently not always.

According to recent news reports, NYC Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has proposed a bill to ELIMINATE ALL SALT in all restaurant kitchens. That’s right, ALL SALT. The idea apparently being that salt (1) is bad for you, (2) is not essential to the cooking process, (3) is simply a condiment that can be added at the end, (4) is not naturally occurring in food ingredients. Choice is good, but like salt, it is best used in moderation.

That’s not a proposal based on sound health or scientific reasoning. That’s insanity. You need salt to preserve foods and ward off bacteria. Salt helps give bread flavor and texture. Salt is a natural part of many foods, just as sugar is naturally essential to fruits and many vegetables, too. The notion that salt is somehow unhealthy even in trace amounts is absurd, so much so that I cannot take Assemblyman Ortiz’s proposal seriously in any way. This is a good thing because if I even thought his proposed bill had a chance in heck to pass, I’d be feeling panic and outrage instead of stunned sadness as I sit here shaking my head at his folly.

This is a particular shame because it is coming from Assemblyman Felix Ortiz of southwest Brooklyn, of NYC’s 51st District which includes Red Hook, Boerum Hill, Sunset Park, Borough Park, South Park Slope and Windsor Terrace. A local political and community leader who, until now, has had a pretty good record on pushing relatively popular health and community-centered issues such as farm-to-school advocacy, funding for eating disorder clinics and domestic violence. This issue, however, is likely going to weaken any prospect he had for higher office.

Fortunately, salt will in all likelihood not get wiped off our plates. Unfortunately, until the bill is officially rejected, talk on blogs, news shows and in pundit-land will continue.

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