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Outrageous is but one of the words that can describe a bill before the New York state assembly, which would prohibit "the use of salt by restaurants in the preparation of food by restaurants."

Introduced last Friday, not only would it prohibit the use of salt by restaurants, but it would also impose a fine of $1,000 (One Thousand Dollars!) per offense. So a meal that starts with grilled eggplant with sea salt, followed by, say, some lemon-grilled salmon with a pinch of salt, and chocolate cake that was also made with a little salt, would cost the chef $3,000? Is Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, who sponsored the bill, serious?

Yes, salt is a problem. The overuse of salt can lead to health problems including and not limited to, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity, and diners often have no idea just how much salt is loaded onto their food. But prohibiting all use of salt, and imposing ridiculous fines for offenders, is not the answer. What's next -- outlawing food that naturally has a high salt content? Limiting the amount of olive oil a chef can use?

And people thought the foie gras ban was silly?

For those who really want to address the health problems caused by misuse of products such as salt, the answer isn't to ban salt; it's the education of the public, and encouraging people to eat real food and pay attention to their food and the way it is produced and not to eat so much of it. But I suppose it's easier to make the grand gesture of trying to ban salt in restaurant kitchens. Public health may not be improved, but it gets an assemblyman's name in the papers.

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page contains a single entry by James Scalzitti published on March 10, 2010 7:11 PM.

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