Banning salt in New York?

Reader response has been clear: you all want food safety/regulation news. Hang on to your hats, this one’s a doozy. I promise it’s not from The Onion or an April Fool’s joke.

A NY state representative has introduced bill A10129, which bans the use of salt in all state restaurants. You read that right. From the bill’s actual text, posted on the State Assembly’s website:

PROHIBITION ON SALT; RESTAURANTS. NO OWNER OR OPERATOR OF A RESTAURANT IN THIS STATE SHALL USE SALT IN ANY FORM IN THE PREPARATION OF ANY FOOD FOR CONSUMPTION BY CUSTOMERS OF SUCH RESTAURANT, INCLUDING FOOD PREPARED TO BE CONSUMED ON THE PREMISES OF SUCH RESTAURANT OR OFF OF SUCH PREMISES

The bill goes on, in typical legalese, to propose fines of $1,000 per violation. Saltshakers on tables would still be ok, but none in the kitchen.

This has generated quite the predictable storm, including some amusing quotes, such as this one from the NY Daily News: “If State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has his way, the only salt added to your meal will come from the chef’s tears.”

There’s a deep irony in someone proposing a law like this for reasons of food health, yet apparently knowing so little about cooking that he doesn’t realize salt is an integral part of the chemistry of cooking. Salt applied to the final dish is entirely different than salt used within a preparation. It’s almost literally impossible to cook some things properly without integral salt. So this yoyo, who wants people to eat healthier, obviously isn’t cooking for himself enough to realize this basic culinary fact. Has he ever even made pasta before? I wonder what he eats, where it comes from, and what ingredients are on the package?

I would think this bill has virtually no chance of passage; even in a state as dysfunctional as New York, there have to be enough baseline rational politicians to shoot down such an asinine idea. But even as an outlier, it’s a great example of the craziness of our country’s approach to food safety and health.

2 thoughts on “Banning salt in New York?

  1. Without knowing anything about assemblyman Ortiz's politics, I obviously can't be sure, but the extreme nature of the bill makes me suspect that the goal is actually to build up a straw man position for those opposed to new regulations to attack.

  2. Kind of like us? I suppose it's possible. However, given that we've seen honest legislative attempts to ban fast food and trans fats in various major cities, this doesn't seem that far beyond. The statements I read from the fellow implied that he'd done just enough reading about the dangers of high-salt diets (which are quite real) to feel that, ironically, customers should have more choice in their eating. Thus the allowance for saltshakers on the tables. Never mind that restaurants are the easiest food choice to make; canned and processed groceries are far harder to avoid with regards to salt content.Perhaps it seems that we over-focus on outlier cases like this, or on emphasizing deregulation for foods, but the underlying point is that our legislative and regulatory system tends to focus on narrow-focus single issues while ignoring the wider picture. Thus the current emphasis in California on literally sterilizing farm fields to prevent contamination of salad greens. This ignores the larger issue that contamination wouldn't be such a major issue if a we had more than just a few massive farms, and their highly centralized processing facilities, serving most of the American food system.In this country we need to learn to fix the underlying primary problem, not the symptom or the tertiary cause.