Eat More Salt Or Your Food Will Taste Like Damp Dog Hair

With everyone from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to First Lady Michelle Obama pushing foodmakers to cut the salt in their products, the salt industry is fighting back. And they warn that without enough salt, processed meats start to taste like cardboard or “damp dog hair.” Yum!

The New York Times sent its correspondents to the front lines of the salt wars:

By all appearances, this is a moment of reckoning for salt. High blood pressure is rising among adults and children. Government health experts estimate that deep cuts in salt consumption could save 150,000 lives a year. …

But the industry is working overtly and behind the scenes to fend off these attacks, using a shifting set of tactics that have defeated similar efforts for 30 years, records and interviews show. Industry insiders call the strategy “delay and divert” and say companies have a powerful incentive to fight back: they crave salt as a low-cost way to create tastes and textures. Doing without it risks losing customers, and replacing it with more expensive ingredients risks losing profits. …

Even as it was moving from one line of defense to another, the processed food industry’s own dependence on salt deepened, interviews with company scientists show. Beyond its own taste, salt also masks bitter flavors and counters a side effect of processed food production called “warmed-over flavor,” which, the scientists said, can make meat taste like “cardboard” or “damp dog hair.”

Food industry scientists also say that, once we get addicted to salt, we can’t let go: “Once a preference is acquired, most people do not change it, but simply obey it,” a Frito Lay scientist wrote in an internal company memo. Or maybe we just prefer it to damp dog hair.

Pushed to Lower Salt Use, Food Industry Pushes Back [NYTimes.com]