Friday, September 6, 2013

Salt is Salt

Here we go again with an attempt to disguise sea salt as natural and healthy, and the advertisers trying to do it work for a fast food chain.  Telling us that it’s “time to indulge,” Arby's is advertising, for a limited time, a “Salted Caramel Shake topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of Hawaiian Sea Salt.”

They do present it as decadent, but I can’t help thinking that the reference to Hawaiian Sea Salt is meant to appeal to those 61 percent who believe – incorrectly –that sea salt offers a low-sodium, healthier alternative to table salt.  (See “Sea Salt Scam?” from January 11, 2013)

Push the nutritional information tab on the ad and discover that it contains 680 calories (190 from fat) and 1400mg of sodium.  That’s almost 1/3 of the USDA recommended daily calories for a moderately active adult and over 93% of the maximum daily sodium intake recommended by the American Heart Association.  This is just the drink or dessert that goes with the rest of a meal!

Why would a national corporation offer such a product?  It’s because they have sales objectives and rightly expect people to buy it.  This is not meant to imply that Arby's is evil or unethical.  They are just doing business, using the same tactics to get us to buy their products as many others do.  They tell us to relax, indulge, that we have earned it.  Then they use the sea salt as a supposedly healthy justification.  As long as we give in to such rationalization and continue to be taken in by these (so-called) health food marketing ploys, relying on labels like all-natural, green, chemical-free, organic and sea salt instead of getting the real science from reliable sources, we are vulnerable.

Once again we must ask ourselves, is the obesity epidemic something for the government to solve?  Should they outlaw this and every other high-fat, high-sodium goody that businesses dream up and promote?  Will strict federal rules about school lunches keep kids away from this when they're out of school?  Face it, the obesity epidemic is of our own making and only we can solve it, through courage, hard work, understanding and a lot of discipline.  As long as there is a market for shakes, and sea salt continues to be viewed as a healthy alternative, temptation will be out there.

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