NY Times' Warner Shakes Fist at Salt
The same New York Times reporter peeved by toy Hummers in McDonaldâ€™s (NYSE: MCD) Happy Meals and funny beer ads during the Super Bowl is now is leading an assault on â€¦ salt. Reporter Melanie Warner pitted a defensive food industry against health professionals in her September 13 story.
Buried deep in her article was how the food industry is working to offer low-sodium food that tastes good â€“ even though consumers have rejected many low-sodium product lines.
After leading off her story with an 80-year-old heart disease patient who disobeys his doctorâ€™s orders to limit sodium intake, Warner informed readers that the American Medical Association â€śis going after the government and the food industry to reduce what it sees as a persistently high level of salt in many processed foods.â€ť
Warner later turned to anti-food industry critic Michael Jacobson to issue his call for more government regulation. â€śSodium should be way at the top of the list at the FDA. and itâ€™s not even on it,â€ť Jacobson complained about the regulatory bodyâ€™s priorities.
But in introducing him to readers, Warner described Jacobsonâ€™s Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) as merely a â€śnutrition advocacy group often critical of the agency and the food industry.â€ť Far from being a mere advocacy group or government watchdog, CSPI has a litigious side to its radical activism.
This year it filed suit against fast food chain KFC over its frying oil and threatened, but so far hasnâ€™t gone through with, suing Cadbury Schweppes for its latest 7-Up advertising campaign. CSPI also dropped plans for a lawsuit against major soft drink makers after former President Bill Clinton brokered a deal between major soft drink makers and the nationâ€™s public school cafeterias.
It wasnâ€™t until deep in her article on page C10 that Warner included some explanation from the food industry why salt is used so much in food processing. â€śUnlike the mechanism for sweetness, the science of salt taste is not well understood, so itâ€™s really difficult to find a substitute,â€ť Campbellâ€™s Soup vice president of research and development George Dowdie told Warner.
Whatâ€™s more, food makers like ConAgra (NYSE: CAG) and General Mills (NYSE: GIS) have tried to diversify their product lines in the past, offering more low-sodium or no-sodium options. Some, Warner conceded, were pulled from the market due to dismal sales. Simply put, consumers preferred higher-sodium products for the taste that only salt can lend a processed food.
Indeed, as writer Candy Sagon noted in her story in The Washington Postâ€™s September 13 Food section, our preference for salt in food is biologically inborn.
â€śFor humans, they're two highly desirable tastes. Sweetness signals a source of nutrients and calories. Sodium is an important nutrient for the functioning of our nervous system,â€ť researcher Leslie Stein of the Monell Chemical Senses Center told the Washington Postâ€™s Candy Sagon. In fact salt â€śactually enhances the sweetness of things. It makes sweet things taste sweeter,â€ť Sagon quoted Stein in her September 13 Food section article.
The Business & Media Institute has previously documented Warnerâ€™s biased reporting on the food industry. In the March 29 Times, Warner turned to left-wing groups to slam Anheuser-Busch Companies (NYSE: BUD) for itâ€™s Bud Light â€śRooftopâ€ť ad, which involved two men taking a beer break while pretending to perform outdoor chores such as cleaning the gutters or fixing a satellite dish. And in August, Warner attacked fast food chain McDonaldâ€™s and car maker General Motors (NYSE: GM).
â€śWhen General Motors introduced the three-ton, 11-miles-to-the-gallon Hummer H2 four years ago, it redefined American extravagance,â€ť Warner disapprovingly opened her column. Although high gas prices have led to declining sales for the behemoth SUV, â€śMcDonaldâ€™s, however, appears not to have gotten the message,â€ť she sighed.