Published on: March 12, 2010There is a bill before the New York State Assembly that would ban the use of salt by every restaurant in the state, with violators hit with a $1,000 fine for every salty dish they serve.
The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn), says specifically, "No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food.” It goes much farther than a push by New York City to get restaurants and packaged goods manufacturers to cut their use of salt by 25 percent.
Ortiz says that the bill is designed to save lives, and is no different from bans on trans fats or bills requiring the posting of calorie information on menu boards.
Critics, however, say that the result of such a ban would be tasteless food, and note that good restaurants - unlike fast feeders - are moderate in their use of salt ... and that the problem is addressed through moderate usage, not an outright ban.
- KC's View:
- Why don’t we cut to the chase and just ban food?
Earlier this week it was a proposal to tax all soda and pizza as a way of getting people to lose weight and cut down on health care-related costs. Now it is all salt. Hard to guess what it will be next ... but it almost certainly will be something.
Before I address the salt proposal, I’d like to share the following email that I received yesterday:
It's interesting that your posture on these asinine tax proposals seems to arise from your taste buds, rather than your brain. During your six-week rant on childhood obesity, you wanted to tax everything in sight, especially soft drinks and candy. But mention pepperoni, and you're all denial, backtracking and bluster. You should run for Congress.
Fair enough. This email seems a mite hostile and even a little personal, but if I’m going to dish it out I’d better be able to take it.
First of all, I’m not sure it is accurate to say that I’ve been engaged in a six-week rant about childhood obesity. I’d like to think I’ve been ranting about it for years.
I’d have to go back and re-read everything I’ve ever written on the subject - and I have no intention of doing so - but I’m not sure I’ve always been in favor of taxing everything in sight. At best, I’d like to think I’ve been conflicted...I see the point of both taxes and regulation, though I’d prefer to get to the end result without them, simply because that seems the more effective approach. However, it certainly is possible that you can throw quotes back at me in which I’ve endorsed such taxes wholeheartedly, so I won’t argue the point too strongly.
This doesn’t mean I’m not capable of personal growth, even if that means some people will describe it as “denial, backtracking and bluster.” (I also plead guilty to the charge that sometimes I think with my stomach and not my brain. When it comes to thinking, sometimes my brain comes in third or even fourth. Depends on the situation.)
For some reason (perhaps because I was thinking with my stomach), the pizza and salt proposals made me think of these issues in a different light. Simply throwing a tax on everything that a) people like and b) might not be good for them all the time, does not seem to me to be a thoughtful and mature way to legislate and lead. At some point, you have to trust that people will make the right decisions for themselves...and have to accept the fact that people sometimes have the right to make the wrong decision for themselves.
On the other hand, it is hard for me to get too upset about things like bans on trans fats, especially when there seems to be evidence that you can eliminate them without ruining the way things taste, and potentially have an impact on the obesity and health care issues. I am not in favor of the nanny state, but I also recognize that sometimes government should step in to protect people from things that may hurt them and about which they may have little or no idea.
(Most people didn’t even know what trans fats were a couple of years ago...a situation that I’m not sure has changed significantly.) The best public policy is not necessarily no public policy, though I recognize that this is an increasingly popular opinion that gains traction every time someone advances a boneheaded idea like a tax on pizza.
I guess what I am trying to say here is that yes, the line does move. I don’t want a nanny state, but I’m not willing to simply say that government has no role in any of these situations.
The problem is that some people want government to have nothing to do with any of this stuff, and would be perfectly happy in a world where people could smoke anywhere, and in which there were no regulations about ingredient panels on food packaging. Knees are perfectly capable of jerking in both directions.
Am I sure where the common sense middle ground is? No. Will we always agree on where the line ought to be drawn? Not likely.
But does that mean there should be no lines, no common sense middle ground where public policy can and should have an impact on private behavior? I don’t think so.
I do know one thing, though. I will not be running for Congress. (Just the trail of commentary on MNB would be more than enough to disqualify me...)