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Anthony Bourdain vs. The Nanny Staters

4:00 PM, May 7, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and host of the Travel Channel's very popular "No Reservations" does not mince words about the possibility future overbearing salt regulation.

In this otherwise depressing Time piece that, among other creepy sentiments, asserts that "we can be trained" to get by with less sodium and calls salt a dietary "cocaine," Bourdain's delightfully politically incorrect sentiment is, well, the salt and the light.

"It's what makes food taste good," he says. "Traditional, intelligent and skilled used of salt has become confused in the minds of nanny-state nitwits with the sneaking of salt into processed convenience foods. Nothing else encapsulates the mission of the food ideologues better than this latest intrusion: they desire a world without flavor."

A New York lawmaker put forth a bill last month that would have banned the use of salt in preparation of foods at any of the state's restaurant, which would instantly have made your corner diner competition to any of New York's formerly world-class restaurants. That particular proposal was mostly laughed off, but the FDA soon after signaled that the New York proposal was just the beginning of the war on salt. 

The federal government will reportedly soon be regulating the amount of sodium allowed in processed foods created by private companies, with clearly marked labels, for free citizens perfectly capable of reading those labels. This is based on near-consensus findings among studies that sodium raises the risk of heart disease and hypertension. (Though, as Stanley Goldfarb notes, "While it is true that it is likely that higher blood pressure will lead to more heart disease, the proof that removing salt from processed food will improve survival could represent the triumph of hope over reality.")

Technology has not yet given us a decent salt substitute, so some of your favorite foods will be tasting bad in the near future if this regulatory plan goes through. In the meantime, private companies are getting together to try to cut sodium, which is slightly less objectionable than the government doing it via regulatory fiat, but no doubt pushed along by the FDA's "nice salt you got there, shame if anything should happen to it" trial balloon. Welcome to "a world without flavor."

There are also studies that show salt intake affects women much less adversely than men. If the FDA starts regulating it, I think I'll sue for gender discrimination. 

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