Bakers Journal

News
Editor’s Letter: Don’t Pass the Salt


November 13, 2008
By Brian Hartz

We live in an increasingly skeptical culture in which factual data are constantly under siege from special-interest groups and spin doctors looking to gain a financial or political edge over their opponents by convincing the public they are in sole possession of the truth.

We live in an increasingly skeptical culture in which factual data are constantly under siege from special-interest groups and spin doctors looking to gain a financial or political edge over their opponents by convincing the public they are in sole possession of the truth.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to take something with a grain of salt is to “accept a thing less than fully” – to be skeptical. Wikipedia says this phrase comes from an entry in Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia “regarding the discovery of a recipe for an antidote to a poison. In the antidote, one of the ingredients was a grain of salt. Threats involving the poison were thus to be taken ‘with a grain of salt’ and therefore less seriously.” Another possible origin is the idea that food tastes better and is easier to swallow if you add some salt.

It’s tough not to be skeptical about the various nutritional studies making headlines in recent years as their findings are often used to promote someone’s cookbook or self-help manual. One day coffee is good, the next it’s bad. Same with chocolate, red wine, the Atkins diet – and now, sodium.

Advertisment

For a long time sodium has taken a distant backseat to trans fats in the rogues gallery of nutrition. And we tend to count calories and cholesterol while overlooking sodium content. Sure, we have vague notions of its potential for harm if over-consumed, but refined table salt – which is 60 per cent sodium, 40 per cent chloride – is such a staple of the baker’s craft that it would seem impractical to cut back or seek alternatives when
there are so many other ingredients and byproducts the government is pressuring food producers to curtail.

However, with excessive salt consumption linked to so many adverse health effects – hypertension, gastric cancer, osteoporosis and cardiac enlargement, just to name a few – and the average Canadian consuming more than 3,100 milligrams of salt per day, twice as much as the recommended 1,200-1,500 milligrams, it was only a matter of time before the government mounted a campaign to encourage people to reduce their daily sodium intake. That time has come as Blood Pressure Canada is urging us to cut our sodium intake to 1,200-2,300 milligrams per day by the year 2020.

The ramifications for the baking industry are significant, which is why we asked Jane Dummer, a registered dietitian and manager of the nutrition consulting services at Guelph Food Technology Centre, to provide some answers for bakers who might be concerned about how this issue is going to affect their businesses in the years ahead. Jane recently gave a presentation on this topic to the Canadian Pastry Chefs Guild, where her assertions were met with a mixture of surprise, enlightenment and, yes, skepticism. See the story on page 38.

Also this month, we cover some other important topics, including Clíona M. Reeves’ look at food safety in light of the listeria crisis and Tuija Seipell’s profile of a B.C. bakery inspired by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth to make its business practices more environmentally sustainable. On the lighter side, I escort you on a tour of California walnut country during harvest season to see how these most healthful of nuts make it from tree to brownie.

So don’t take this issue with a grain of salt – it could not only help your business, but also save your life. See you in 2009!

Happy holidays, 


Print this page

Related



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*