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New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, fresh from the front lines of the trans fats and calorie-counting wars, is turning to face a new foe: salt. As the health crusader aims to reduce salt in packaged and restaurant foods through "voluntary" measures, old opponents and familiar allies are turning out: vexed restaurateurs, anti-nanny staters, public health fans, and study-wielding skeptics.

  • Hooray for Nannies Calling Bloomberg "New York City's Yenta-in Chief," David Kramer blogs that "now my surrogate Jewish mother has decided that the 'high' salt content in my food is not good for me either--so he's about to start one of his Soviet-style campaigns to lower the salt content in food served in privately-owned restaurants."
  • Not Even Scientific "Never mind," gripes the New York Post, "that salt has important properties that preserve and stabilize food, and its sodium ions help maintain the fluid in human blood cells. Forget that the body does not manufacture its own sodium ions so there has to be some salt in everyone's diet." Across a number of sites, folks on the comments boards have been complaining about the questionable science of salt intake activism. Dan Mitchell at The Big Money adds that "there are potential hazards with a program like this, voluntary or not. Just for starters, some people react badly to a reduction in their salt intake." He thinks "a better approach with salt would be a public-education campaign." Meanwhile New York Magazine's Daniel Maurer highlights the opinion of the American Journal of Hypertension: "They want to do an experiment on a whole population without a good control ... That's not science."
  • Great Idea, says The American Prospect's Monica Potts, who argues that, in fact, "this is a far more straightforward way of reducing the dangerously high amounts of sodium Americans now consume than launching a massive public education campaign. It also highlights the real problem: People aren't consuming too much salt because they're lazy or stupid, but because there's too much salt in the food available."
  • Quit Complaining "You can support these efforts or oppose them as paternalist overreach," says The Washington Post's Ezra Klein, "but Bloomberg is one of the few politicians in the country who has decided to make public health--as opposed to health-care coverage, or health-care costs--a major feature of his administration." Adds Dan Mitchell: "Unless you are a wild-eyed libertarian, it's hard to dispute that diet-caused illnesses like heart disease and diabetes are public-health issues that can legitimately be addressed by government."
  • Pretty Reasonable "We view these as achievable goals," says a Subway representative as reported by Daniel Maurer, who also chronicles restaurant associations' skepticism. "A very realistic set of criteria," responds an A&P food stores representative.For The Atlantic, nutritionist Marion Nestle calls this "actually a modest proposal. We still have a long way to go."

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