You might have heard recently that the New York City Health Department is proposing a mandated high-salt warning label on menu items at chain restaurants and concession stands. If the measure passes, New York would become the first U.S. city to implement such a rule.
This new crusade on salt is surprising since the science on salt is still evolving. Too much, of course, is bad. But so is too little. And how much, exactly, is too much? That is still being debated by the scientific community. In fact, new research is casting doubt on the U.S. government’s current salt recommendations, on which the New York City rule would be based.
“The uncertainty surrounding salt consumption is the same uncertainty that attends diet research as a whole,” says journalist Vicky Gan in her article exploring the issue in The Atlantic magazine’s CityLab.
“It all comes back to the complexity of the human body and the difficulty of isolating the effects of any one ingredient, especially in the long term,” she writes. “But New York’s labeling proposal is distinctive in that it gets ahead of what research is available on salt.”
We couldn’t have said it better. The science of nutrition is complex. You can’t simplify nutrition recommendations by singling out “good” and “bad” foods or ingredients. Many times government has taken action before the facts are in, and it can have drastic negative results as it did when foods with cholesterol and fat were disparaged and subject to erroneous regulation.
Government should wait for science to weigh in before it does so, and then promise to look at the totality of evidence before giving us bad advice yet again.