NY Times' Warner Shakes Fist at Salt
The same New York Times reporter peeved by toy Hummers in McDonaldâs (NYSE: MCD) Happy Meals and funny beer ads during the Super Bowl is now is leading an assault on âŠ 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 doctorâs orders to limit sodium intake, Warner informed readers that the American Medical Association âis 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
Warner later turned to anti-food industry critic Michael Jacobson to issue his call for more government regulation. âSodium should be way at the top of the list at the FDA. and itâs not even on it,â Jacobson complained about the regulatory bodyâs priorities.
But in introducing him to readers, Warner described Jacobsonâs Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) as merely a ânutrition advocacy group often critical of the agency and the food industry.â 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 hasnât 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 nationâs public school cafeterias.
It wasnât 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. âUnlike the mechanism for sweetness, the science of salt taste is not well understood, so itâs really difficult to find a substitute,â Campbellâs Soup vice president of research and development George Dowdie told Warner.
Whatâs 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 Postâs September 13 Food section, our preference for salt in food is biologically inborn.
âFor 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 researcher Leslie Stein of the Monell Chemical Senses Center told the Washington Postâs Candy Sagon. In fact salt âactually enhances the sweetness of things. It makes sweet things taste sweeter,â Sagon quoted Stein in her September 13 Food section article.
The Business & Media Institute has previously documented Warnerâs 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 itâs Bud Light âRooftopâ 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 McDonaldâs and car maker General Motors (NYSE: GM).
âWhen General Motors introduced the three-ton, 11-miles-to-the-gallon Hummer H2 four years ago, it redefined American extravagance,â Warner disapprovingly opened her column. Although high gas prices have led to declining sales for the behemoth SUV, âMcDonaldâs, however, appears not to have gotten the message,â she sighed.