Big food companies are using well-established public relations techniques to fight bad publicity over the high salt content in processed foods, employing strategies developed earlier by the tobacco industry to forestall regulatory action against their products. To help delay potential regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limiting the salt content of processed foods, big international food marketer Cargill hired respected Food Network star Alton Brown, to promote salt in a video-and-Website campaign called Salt 101. "Salt is a pretty amazing compound," Brown gushes, "so make sure you have plenty of salt in your kitchen at all times." The food industry also presented the FDA with its own studies of salt's effects, including two studies commissioned by ConAgra that suggest the country would save billions more in health care costs if we could just get people to eat a little less food overall, instead of just less salty food. (The strategy is to broaden the issue and change the focus to divert attention from salt). The food industry fights efforts to regulate salt content because of the importance of salt in processed foods. It masks bitter flavors and counters a side effect of processed food production called "warmed-over flavor," which, scientists say, makes meat taste like "cardboard" or "damp dog hair." Without salt, corn flakes have a metallic taste and Cheez-Its taste medicinal.
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