There has been quite a bit of media coverage in the past week about Boston Market’s announcement that it has removed the salt shakers from its tables and replaced them with little cards hyping the company’s interest in reducing sodium. As highlighted in some articles , it was an interesting marketing ploy since it reaped the chain considerable publicity.
It also begs the question if Boston Market’s intention is to reject the notion that peoples tastes differ. One look at Boston Market’s nutritional information makes it clear that their products are brined. If you look at the ingredient listings right after the nutritional information, you will see that their chicken, turkey and beef products all contain up to 12-15% of brining solution (aka water and seasoning). Thus the seasoning levels are fixed at a particular level prior to getting to the client, as can be seen from the nutrition table.
It is unfortunate that Boston Market took this marketing tack at the very time that the preponderance of scientific evidence makes it clear that reducing salt in diets will increase the risk of morbidity and mortality . The fact that our public health institutions are in denial does not change the science.
But you can deny the facts only so long. When the scientific evidence becomes acknowledged, as it surely will be, in lightening speed the salt shakers will be back on the tables and the little cards pitched into the rotisserie.
Unlike silkworms (who can only eat mulberry leaves) or koala bears (who can only eat eucalyptus leaves), we humans are omnivores – we can eat whatever we like. Unfortunately, this lucky circumstance has a dark side to it, because some foods are unsafe to eat. Fortunately, we have known for very long times which are the natural foods that are risky, such as poisonous mushrooms or untreated cassava roots. This common sense knowledge notwithstanding, our growing dependence on others to supply our food has triggered a fear and distrust of all processed and restaurant foods.
Making matters worse is the horde of network “talking heads” and “consumer advocates” that manage to take bits and pieces of food- and health-related data and place them totally out of context in order to sensationalize them. The bearers of these morsels of ‘exclusive knowledge’ imply that consumers know nothing and need to be protected from all the dangers lurking in the food world. The sad truth is that these people are generally not experts in the field of food, nutrition or health at all. If they were, they would know that there is very little that is sensational in the field of food and health.
How many exotic fruits, teas and oils were supposed to cure cancer? Where are they now – except in the overpriced sections of high-end supermarkets of natural food stores? So, while these talking heads may not be expert in food and health, they are expert at getting the public’s attention – and using the occasion to profitably flog information that is little better than the proverbial snake oil.
It is a phenomenon that has played out most effectively in America. It is a wonder that anyone in the US can enjoy their food at all. People either end up not eating things that are delicious and healthy for them or they become defiant of the ‘urban knowledge’ that minimizes their enjoyment of food.
For instance, we have known for many years now that the urban legend asserting that all fats are bad for you, is wrong. Just like hormone replacement therapy, this knowledge was never based upon actual evidence, but on the opinions of physicians whose reputations far exceeded their technical competence and honesty. These people were all highly placed politically and exerted a great influence on our public health institutions. Just like the bogus advice on eggs and salt, their opinions have been proven totally wrong by the actual evidence. However, like stubborn warts, these opinions continue to survive, aided and abetted by our current crop of consumer advocates and public health bureaucrats, because they have supported the myth-information for so long, they can’t back out.
So we are left with the dilemma of how to resolve what food is good or bad for you. Most people have been blessed with a good deal of intelligence and common sense. Whether they have the confidence to use it is another question. I would highly recommend they do. At the very least, they should be skeptical of the gratuitous opinions that don’t quite add up to them.
A tiny exercise. We all know that we are living longer than we did years ago. So it is not news, but rather common sense, that diseases of old age are becoming more common. The increase in the rate of heart disease doesn’t mean that our food or our lifestyle is bad - it simply means that more people are living long enough to wear our parts out! We never enjoyed that privilege to the same extent before!
The real question to ask is what do we expect to be dying from as the population ages – head lice? Of course we will find higher rates of the diseases that reflect age. Does anyone actually think that they will manage to get out of life alive?
Eating is an integral part of life – it’s not just the act of ingesting nutrients. It should be a social and pleasurable experience – one that is not spoiled by hype and myth-information spread by fear mongers who have their own agendas.
There no doubt at all, your own common sense and judgment are the best tools to overcome the omnivore’s dilemma. Use them!