How does government intervention get sold to citizens? First, publicize a “crisis” and warn that dire consequences will follow without some immediate changes. Push people into changing their choices voluntarily with social pressure and warnings of impending disaster. At some point, declare those efforts insufficient and propose government intervention as the only way to save people from themselves.
DDT? Global warming? Alar? No … salt:
The Food and Drug Administration is planning an unprecedented effort to gradually reduce the salt consumed each day by Americans, saying that less sodium in everything from soup to nuts would prevent thousands of deaths from hypertension and heart disease. The initiative, to be launched this year, would eventually lead to the first legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products.
The government intends to work with the food industry and health experts to reduce sodium gradually over a period of years to adjust the American palate to a less salty diet, according to FDA sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the initiative had not been formally announced.
Officials have not determined the salt limits. In a complicated undertaking, 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, sources said. Working with food manufacturers, the government would set limits for salt in these categories, designed to gradually ratchet down sodium consumption. The changes would be calibrated so that consumers barely notice the modification.
Maura Johnston at The Awl:
The FDA, following in Mike Bloomberg’s footsteps, is making plans to force food manufacturers to gradually reduce the amount of salt in their offerings. Salt content went unnoticed until now because it was “generally recognized as safe,” but that was back before the average American was eating 3,500 milligrams of it a day. (That’s the equivalent of 1.25 Triple Baconators. Which seems a little low!)
Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard:
The FDA will accomplish this regulatory coup, according to Washington Post‘s sources, by merely moving salt out of the “generally recognized as safe,” category, which only requires accurate nutrition labeling into the unsafe substance category, which the FDA can regulate aggressively. It’s the same trick the EPA pulled to expand the role of regulators over carbon levels. They simply had an “endangerment finding” that moved the substance from one EPA-created category into another, more heavily regulated EPA-created category, and voila!, regulatory power.
I am so in favor of this. It’s sort of like the Do Not Call list: I don’t really care about ideology here, and I don’t really care if this is nanny statism or government overreach or anything else. I’m just totally in favor. And you know what? By the time this is done, my guess is that nobody will even remember a difference. They’ll just be eating healthier food that tastes better and doesn’t cause as many strokes or heart attacks. Three cheers for the FDA.
Look, I understand that the nanny-state Left doesn’t trust its own judgment and ability to make informed decisions, and that’s fine. In fact, I agree with them: I don’t trust their judgment or ability to make informed decisions, either. But why do they insist on trying to interfere with my judgment or ability to make informed decisions? – Aside from them generally being annoying neo-Puritan gloom-magnets, of course.
At any rate, I can’t wait to see the FDA explain to the American people why they can’t have proper bacon anymore…
Joel Achenbach at WaPo:
The most fascinating part of this is the notion that the government can change our palate through incremental measures. Yeah, and maybe in 10 years we can be trained to like half-hour situation comedies again, and the three top sports in America will once again be baseball, boxing and horse racing.
Here’s the bottom line: As a nation we’ve come to be repulsed by ourselves. We’re overweight and oversalted. We consume too much and save too little and are a fiscal mess and have too much on our credit cards and spoil our children and live in houses that are excessively large and now, to punctuate the whole miserable picture, our government is going to have to save us from salt, or more precisely, from our palates — from our big fat tongues.
Just watch: Someday they’ll tell us there’s something wrong with burning gasoline.
UPDATE: James Joyner
UPDATE #2: Monica Potts at Tapped