NEW YORK CITY – Mayor Bloomberg yesterday defended his latest nanny initiative — a controversial crackdown on salt — by comparing the simple seasoning to killer asbestos in the classroom.
"If we know there's asbestos in a school room what do you expect us to do?" Bloomberg shot back at reporters questioning his new initiative. "Say it's not our business? I don't think so. The same thing is true with food and smoking and a lot of things.
"Salt and asbestos, clearly both are bad for you," Bloomberg continued. "Modern medicine thinks you shouldn't be smoking if you want to live longer. Modern medicine thinks you shouldn't be eating salt, or sodium."
Bloomberg is pushing a plan to cut the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant foods by 25 percent over the next five years. He says the initiative is voluntary.
Never mind that salt has important properties that preserve and stabilize food, and its sodium ions help maintain the fluid in human blood cells.
Forget that the body does not manufacture its own sodium ions so there has to be some salt in everyone's diet.
Restaurant owners have a less scientific reason for disliking the crackdown: salt makes food taste good.
Some of the city's top chefs and restaurant owners yesterday had a spicy message for City Hall: Simmer down and stay out of our kitchens.
"I'm all for trying to make New Yorkers healthier people," said acclaimed chef Ed Brown, owner of the restaurant eighty one on the Upper West Side. "But when it comes to him telling me how much salt to put in food, I have a problem with it."
Noted chef David Chang, owner of the Momofuku Noodle Bar, said cooks have been using salt with food almost as long as they have been using fire.
"You need salt to draw flavor out of food," Chang said. "It's a skill that you teach cooks. For that to be regulated by the government is just stupid and foolish."
Too much sodium contributes to high blood pressure, which can cause heart attacks and stroke, health officials say.