The New York Times reports that New York City is trying to persuade the makers of processed food to reduce salt content in their products by more than 40 percent over the next 10 years. The hope is that such a reduction in salt consumption would likewise reduce the number of strokes and heart attacks. The article, written by a professor of medicine, argues that there is no proven correlation between salt intake and cardiovascular disease. It points out that in some cases, reduced salt intake can actually cause health problems.

For reasons not entirely clear, I recently cut way back on salt. I don’t have high blood pressure or any other indications, but I hear enough about the alleged link to health problems and I do eat a crazy amount of salt–even salting things that are already over-salted. Even potato chips. How crazy is that? Crazy enough to see what would happen if I radically reduced my intake.

The first thing I noticed once I recovered a normal sense of taste was how much salt is in other foods. And I’m not even talking about what we normally consider processed foods. For example, we eat hot sauce on just about everything and I found that there was enough sodium in the hot sauce that no additional salt was needed for the rest of the food. We don’t eat a lot of processed foods, but yes, when we do I now taste that they contain way too much salt. The ham in a ham omelet, to cite a common example, has enough salt that no more is needed for the eggs. And I used to add pretty much the daily recommended allowance on top of that.

So I’m thinking that a little regulation many not be such a bad thing. But I’m not sure that having government dictate recipes is the best solution, though I’m not sure it’s not.I see no harm at all in requiring big loud warning labels that whatever food contains way, way , way more sodium than is wise for anyone to ingest at one sitting, but that’s not what we’re talking about.

So I ask myself what do right wing idiots think about it? I often do that when I’m not sure what to think about an issue. This letter to the Times gives a good indication:

I’m not sure I like the idea of the government’s telling me what to eat. No, let me rephrase that: I do not want the government in my kitchen.

If I want to eat salt, that’s my business. Yes, some people have a problem with salt. Some people also have a problem with cholesterol. Some with sugar. That doesn’t mean the government should be sticking its nose in everyone’s pie, sampling the soup and telling us what we can eat.

Too many cooks spoil the broth. The government is one too many for sure.

I find it useful to test my beliefs against those of right wing morons because they are almost always wrong, and stupidly so. And I find it especially disconcerting when they coincide. So I though it best to re-examine my thinking through the prism of right wing dogma.

Note the problem with the wingnut’s logic in this case. Limiting the amount of salt a corporation can put in processed food is not telling people they can’t eat salt. We would still be free to add as much salt as we please. What such regulation would do would let people make their own choices about how much salt they add to their meal.

That’s often the case with wingnut "logic." Their self-deluding rhetoric aside, they pretty much always come down against freedom of choice for individuals. For them it’s all about freedom of choice for authority whether that authority be corporate, religious or governmental (as long is they are the ones running the government).

So since my inclination to keep the government out of the kitchen failed the right wing smell test, I guess I’m okay with New York City’s crusade against excess salt. And think about it. Why do big corporations put so much salt in everything anyway? I suspect it’s more than just making food taste better. I think one of the side effects of excess salt is that it causes people to eat more, and it certainly causes people to drink more. Would McDonald’s sell less corn syrup water if their customers were free to salt their own foods? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.

Now let’s re-examine the good professor’s argument in the Times. He seems to be saying that since there is no definitive proof that salt increases the dangers of cardiovascular disease, and that not getting enough salt may even increase it, then it’s okay for McDonald’s to decide how much salt people should consume. First, his argument sounds a bit too much like all those tobacco industry scientists who for so many years were unable to definitively prove a link between cigarette smoking and cancer. Personally, I would feel much better if the Times were to assure me that their guest columnist is not somehow owned by the processed food industry. Secondly, it still comes back to personal choice. Who is going to decide how much salt goes into our food? Is government going to ensure that we can make our own decisions? Or should we trust the corporations?