Taking Howard Kurtz with a grain of salt

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

You won't soon encounter a bigger fan of salt than me. I consume more of it than I should, and that is not a new development -- as a young child, I once enjoyed the taste of the salt lick at my grandfather's farm. OK, maybe that's a bit of over-sharing. Anyway, the government can take my salt away when they pry it from my cold, dead hands. Which just might happen: Too much salt isn't healthy.

I establish my pro-salt bona fides in order to make clear that the flurry of lousy reporting about the FDA's assault on salt bothers me not because I am an anti-salt crusader, but because it's deeply dishonest.

Here, for example, is the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz on the FDA's plans to limit the amount of salt in processed foods:

A worthy goal, but do we want Uncle Sam in charge of our diets?

Isn't it all too easy for Obama opponents to caricature this move as the triumph of the nanny state? To paint the president as the salt czar, dispatching his bureaucrats to micromanage your life?


I don't mind jawboning the industry, which seems to favor some level of voluntary reduction. I don't mind banning sugary sodas in public schools, because kids are involved (not that they can't get their Coke fix elsewhere). But should the government be telling adults they can't have salty foods if they want them? And why salt? Fat and sugar are arguably bigger problems in terms of Michelle's anti-obesity drive.


Maybe I'm overreacting. But the president just gave ammunition to those who are angry at the reach of Big Government.

First of all, it's hard not to suspect there's a little projection going on here: Kurtz speculates that "Obama opponents" will "caricature this move" -- but that's exactly what Kurtz is doing. He writes that the president "gave ammunition to those who are angry at the reach of Big Government" -- but it sure looks like he's talking about himself.

See, Kurtz is badly distorting the FDA plans. The FDA isn't planning to impose legal limits on the amount of salt you consume. The government isn't "telling adults they can't have salty foods if they want them." It simply isn't happening. The FDA is considering limits on how much salt manufacturers can include in processed foods. You, me, and Howard Kurtz will still be free to purchase salt and add as much to our food as we like. The FDA plans will have literally no effect on our ability to decide for ourselves how much salt we consume.

I'm sure there are legitimate objections, both practical and philosophical, to the FDA plans -- but Kurtz shouldn't be misleading readers about those plans in order to stoke fears of invasive "Big Government."

The Washington Post
Howard Kurtz
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