Government in the Pantry

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Question: \r\nWhat do you think of New York's proposal to ban salt in restaurants?

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Mark Bittman: \r\nI think it's moronic.  I\r\nthink that the problem with salt, to the extent that there is a problem with\r\nsalt, and this is not really, really clear, but to the extent there is a\r\nproblem with salt, it's the salt in processed foods.  People who don’t eat a lot of processed foods don’t have\r\nproblems with salt.  People who add\r\ntheir own salt to food have no problems with salt.  Chefs who make their own – chefs in restaurants who cook\r\nfrom scratch and add salt to their taste or to the perceive tastes of their\r\ndiners are not adding criminal amounts of salt.  If you want to limit the amount of salt that McDonalds puts\r\nin its processed foods, that's great. \r\nI'd like to limit the amount of food they can sell period.  It's not really a salt problem, it's an\r\noverall food problem.

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Question: Why are proposals to tax sugary sodas important?

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Mark\r\nBittman:  Well, I think it is happening, which is\r\nreally amazing.  The mayor of\r\nPhiladelphia just proposed a very – the proponents of a soda tax or generally\r\nproposing a penny per ounce as an excise tax, which means 12 ounce can of soda\r\nmight cost a $1.12 instead of $1.00 and a 24-pack case of soda might cost --\r\nmight double in price from a sale price of $2.99 or $3.99.  That's really incredible.  The guy in Philadelphia, I think his\r\nname is Nutter, but hey it's his name. \r\nThe guy in Philadelphia is proposing two cents per ounce, which is\r\nreally quite amazing because it means a $1.00 can of soda would cost a $1.25.  A 32 ounce bottle of soda that was a\r\n$1.00 would cost a $1.64 and so on.

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So I think it is\r\nhappening.  Why is it\r\nimportant?  Soda is the leading\r\nsource of calories for Americans. \r\nAmericans get seven percent of their calories from soda, which is more\r\nthan they get from any other single food. \r\nAnd let's think about this, it's non-nutritive.  That is to say no benefit\r\nwhatsoever.  None.  Like it's not harmless, it's negative.  Secondly, it's a leading cause of\r\nobesity in the United States.  I\r\nmean, if obesity is a problem, you have to look at where the calories are\r\ncoming from.  If soda is the number\r\none source of calories in the United States and it's not a beneficial source of\r\ncalories, it's something people can do without. 

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So if you're\r\nobese and you're looking for ways to help people figure out what they can do\r\nwithout, soda is a very good start. \r\nSo I think the tax is a very smart thing.  There is some research that shows that taxing junk food,\r\nwhich soda is a junk food, taxing junk food is more likely to help people eat\r\nwell than subsidizing healthy food. \r\nThe irony is that if you subsidize healthy food people will take the\r\nmoney they're saving and buy junk food, which is sad but true.

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I think the soda\r\ntax makes sense.  I think it's\r\nhappening.  I think it's going to\r\nhappen this year and next year.  I\r\nthink it is going to be a swell of soda taxes and I think once the greedy state\r\nlegislatures realize they can make money on this thing it's going to have even\r\nmore momentum.

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Proposals to tax sugary sodas are good -- but plans to remove salt from restaurants are "moronic."

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