Is Salted Popcorn about to become a federal offense?

by Tom DeWeese

June 28th, 2010

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning an assault on salt. The government intends to set regulations to limit the use of salt intake by Americans. The regulations would set “legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products.”

Of course, the excuse is “protection” of the health of the American people. Say the feds, limiting salt would prevent thousands of deaths from hypertension and heart disease.

In a complicated process, the FDA would analyze the salt in spaghetti sauces, breads, and thousands of other products that make up the $600 billion food and beverage market.

The main culprits behind the effort to have the FDA regulate salt is the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which has led a fight against salt for 30 years. CSPI wants the FDA to revoke salt’s GRAS statue (Generally Recognized As Safe).

CSPI is the undisputed leader among the food police. It has launched an all out campaign against the eating habits of Americans, attacking Italian, Chinese, fast foods, soft drinks, French fries, extra cheese pizza, and almost anything else that tastes good. You might guess that Michael Jacobson, the head of CSPI, is a rabid Vegetarian, horrified by nearly anything man chooses to eat.

CSPI calls for taxes on foods with fat, sugar, and sodium (called the “Twinkie Tax”). They want government-mandated warning labels on high-fat, high-calorie menu items. They advocate that broadcasters be required to give free “equal time” to government-advertisements of “healthy” foods every time Burger King runs an ad. They want warning labels of contamination from fresh, unpasteurized juices. And they constantly threaten restaurants with legal action over nutritional labeling. CSPI opposed consumption of  animals (no meat or fish) and all of their byproducts, including cheese, milk, and ice cream. They oppose any consumption of alcohol, calling for hefty increases in beer taxes, even restrictions on adults, and poster size warning labels in restaurants.    All of that action, of course, serves only to drive up the cost of food while robbing Americans of a freedom to choose what they eat.

CSPI has attacked nearly every food product on Earth, begging the question, “What’s left to eat.” Jacobsen suggests a sandwich of lettuce and bread – but be careful, because the bread has salt in it and the lettuce may have been sprayed with chemicals. In fact, he advises a near starvation diet of not much more than potatoes and carrots (don’t over indulge in them). And he says, the American public cannot be trusted to make their own choices, so he must do it for them.

Now salt has become the main target in CSPI’s war against eating. And it has bombarded the FDA relentlessly with demands to revoke salt’s GRAS, to the point it is now moving to invoke government-mandated blandness, controlling our ability to decide if we like our food a little more tasty or not.

Like Obama’s health care mess, the attacks against salt use and its imagined dangers are both wrong and unpopular. According to scientific research, something rarely used in CSPI’s attacks, salt is not a danger. Research from UC-Davis last fall found that “our bodies naturally regulate the amount of salt we take in,” making government intervention pointless. In recent Rasmussen survey, just 33% of Americans think the government should set limits on salt we can eat. 55% say NO. The Wall Street Journal said meddling in salt is “an illegitimate form of government intervention” parading as paternalism “run amok.”

What will result, if the FDA takes away salt’s GRAS status, is a rampage of law suits by the food police. Whole industries will be destroyed. The government will set regulations for how much salt we can use in everything we eat. And so the American people will be even less free to decide for themselves.

There is one more point that must be considered in why the government is moving now to control salt. Obamacare. Now that the government has appointed itself as our caregiver, it has to watch the bottom line on expenses. Remember when members of congress denied as absurd, charges that Obamacare would lead to rationing? Well, this is how it will be done. If they believe salt causes health problems, then it must be stopped – to cut costs and protect the people. That, of course, is the reason the government enforced seat belt laws – because people getting hurt in accidents cost government money for rescue services, 911 operators and emergency room services. Since government foots the bill for that in the name of the taxpayers, you have to toe the line and buckle up. It’s the same with salt bans.

So, will the government send agents to confiscate the salt shakers? Will we have to send in an application for permission to salt our pop corn? Or will we call the FDA in mass and say “get the hell out of my life!” You better decide quickly, before we can’t even work in the salt mines to survive the ravages of Big Brother.

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is President of the American Policy Center and National Grassroots Coordinator for CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow) working to help local activists organize into Freedom Pods ( He is also the author of three books, including Now Tell Me I Was Wrong, ERASE, and Sustainable: the WAR on Free Enterprise, Private Property, and Individuals.