Why put salt in baby food? I asked that with my first Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives (Crown) way back in 1978 and so did a lot of consumer advocates. The manufacturers responded by taking the sodium chloride out food jars and the babies didn’t even notice.


Some manufacturers told me they really added salt to baby food because mothers tasted their little children’s food before they spooned it in the youngster’s mouth. If the mother thought it tasted bland, they didn’t buy the food again.


Food manufacturers have now found themselves being pressured to reduce the salt in adult food. My theory has always been that salt is used to cover up the lack of natural taste in processed food. Several food companies have introduced low sodium products to the market and most have been discontinued due to disappointing sales figures. The problem is, these foods are either flavorless or they leave a bitter aftertaste.


Why are we addicted to salt? Since childhood snacks, cereals, and other offerings to children are loaded with salt. There is also hidden salt in chickens and hams injected with salt water to preserve and to add weight to them and fish can be found lying on salted ice in the ship and on the shore.


 The Institute of Medicine states 25 percent of the American population is salt sensitive. A high salt intake often leads to high blood pressure and kidney problems as well as strokes and heart attacks.


In all fairness, I have to admit I am highly sensitive to salt because of condition I inherited from my father. I have found it is very difficult to avoid salted food when eating out. Servers, who think they will probably never see me again, do not hesitate to say the restaurant doesn’t use salt in cooking. . I landed in the hospital emergency room once believing a waiter in a restaurant that there was no salt in my entrée. A host who invites us to dinner assures me that very little salt is used in her dishes


Shopping is also a problem for those of us who are salt sensitive. Sometimes, you have to learn to read between the lines. There are terms on packages that may be misleading. For example “unsalted”,” processed without salt” or “no salt added” may signify that the producer didn’t put any additional salt in during processing but the food may still be naturally high in sodium. For example, a low sodium soy sauce has 390 mg of sodium per teaspoon (and who can use only a teaspoon of soy sauce on a dish).  A popular tomato-vegetable drink with “no salt added” has 90 milligrams per 4.5 fluid ounces. Salt can also be listed under dozens of “sodium” designations such as monosodium glutamate and sodium caseinate adding additional salt to your diet. The FDA labeling requirements for sodium are:


  •  Low sodium ,,,,                        140 mg or less preserving


  •  Very low sodium….                   less than 35 mg per serving


  •  Sodium free—               .           less than 5 mg per serving



So if you are not as extremely salt sensitive as I am and you still, for you overall health, wish to lower your salt intake, here are some hints:


The basic sources of cereals are salt free–wheat, corn, rice and oats.  Yet instant oatmeal may contain about 360 mg per serving, instant corn grits 590 mg and instant cream of wheat 180 mg. If you’re willing to cook the non-instant cereals, you can avoid the high salt. It’s providing the “instant” that dishes out the sodium. Some 70 sodium compounds are used in foods, as you will see in this book. The National Academy of Sciences, whose experts establish dietary guidelines, recommends that we ingest no more than 2400 milligrams of sodium for the entire day. The average American ingests 3500 to 7000 milligrams. (A teaspoon of salt has about 2,000 milligrams of sodium.). If the numbers for sodium look very low on a label, look again and be aware of the difference between milligrams (mg) and grams (gr). Some companies make you think there is less by saying on 2 grams of sodium, for example, which is really 2000 milligrams.


There is hope because consumers and organizations such as CPS have kept the pressure on manufacturers to lower the salt content in processed and restaurant food. The news from Campbell’s, the top-selling soup maker, has announced lower sea salt levels in its classic tomato soup, a further 15 per cent reduction in 25 Healthy Request soups to 410mg sodium (1.03g salt), and six V8 soups with reduced sodium. For food firms, the challenge lies in delivering products that still meet our taste expectations and are safe since salt is also used as a preservative.


A science policy paper published by the Grocery Manufacturers Association recently noted that there are more reduced-sodium products on the market, as manufacturers are on-board with the healthier eating drive. However the paper, called “Sodium and Salt: A Guide for Consumers, Policymakers and the Media”, highlighted steps being taken in the industry to change salt-taste preferences and said: “Some food processors are actively following step-down plans to gradually reduce the sodium contents of their products.” Such reductions are over various lengths of time and “help reshape and reduce loyal consumers’ salt-taste preferences towards these foods”.

Although research into alternative ingredients and technologies has expanded in recent years and continues to grow in areas such as salt substitutes and taste enhancers, the GMA added that manufacturers are wary of alienating customers by altering flavor and texture profiles too quickly, as consumers are loyal and sensitive to changes in their favorite brands.


In the meantime, consumer organizations such as The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, D.C., recently hit out at food firms for the salt levels in their foods, as a survey showed that the average sodium content of 528 packaged and restaurant foods stayed essentially the same between 2005 and 2008. CSPI said the big brand-to-brand differences in numerous categories of foods indicated that some companies “could easily lower sodium levels and still have perfectly marketable products.


The CSPI petitioned the FDA in 2005 to change the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status of salt. FDA held a hearing in September 2007. The Institutes of Medicine convened an ad hoc consensus committee to review and make recommendations about ways to reduce Americans’ dietary sodium intake levels. It is expected to publish a report in February 2010, but a series of open meetings are planned throughout this year. If you are in the neighborhood of the meetings or you are adept at email, make your voice heard.




Could it be that we have gotten bored carrying around those plastic water bottles to down the recommended eight glasses per day?  Even if that fad is fading, merchandisers have a new gimmick to get us to pay a lot for what is free from the tap.


First we had sports drinks– green or yellow– with sugar, potassium and whatever else might be added to make us believe we could outplay our competitors.


Then we were offered vitamin waters to improve and protect our health.


Water is almost always the largest ingredient in cosmetics and some company have now just gone with water as a beauty treatment. The functional water brand Borba is one of the leaders in the sector with its range of Skin Balance Waters.


“The selection of enhanced waters contain antioxidants, vitamins and botanicals, with each drink being formulated to help provide clearer, firmer skin, and to counteract dry, dehydrated skin,” the company claims.


Launched in 2005, the Skin Balance Waters were originally marketed in beauty stores Sephora and Nordstrom, before being introduced into grocery stores.


Borba’s Skin Balance Waters were picked up by Anheuser-Busch in late summer last year and at the time of the distribution deal the company’s vice president of business operations, Dave Peacock, noted that adding the range allowed the company to participate in the emerging nutraceutical beverage category. Nutraceuticals are ingredients that do more than just nourish you. They have a minor pharmaceutical benefit.


In addition, PepsiCo has targeted the notion of beauty through water with the launch of a skin care range that carries the Aquafina logo. Aquafina is one of the biggest selling water brands in the US and the company’s Aquafina Enhanced Hydration skin care range benefits from consumer associations between water and health and the extensive advertising budget behind the brand


Now there is anti-aging water that is claimed to make our skin beautiful and unwrinkled from within. Flavors and fine ingredients company, Frutarom, is targeting the fast growing “inner” beauty water market with a new anti-aging offering.


Frutarom, a flavor and fine ingredients company, has signed an agreement with France-based company Copalis, which specializes in marine-based ingredients for health, cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications.



Frutarom’s Laurent Leduc is quoted as saying: “Beauty from within is something very new in the US but it is growing fast. Although it is a few years behind Europe and Asia we are seeing a lot of demand from both dietary supplement manufacturers and cosmetic companies”.


Frutarom’s ingredient is colorless, soluble and virtually tasteless. It is the companies first  product to target the anti-aging market directly with a beauty water. The company, along with other functional food and cosmetic manufacturers, reportedly see a big potential for such water products in the States. Throughout this year, expect to see “beauty water” offered at your local stores.


If you can have vitamin water that keeps you strong and healthy and sports water that keeps you in the game and beauty water that keeps your skin looking younger, why not dive in? The psychological lift may keep you in the swim—that is if you are not sunk by  the price tags.







My local pharmacist—I still believe in a face-to-face personal pharmacist—helped me select a multi-vitamin. Yes, I still believe that with food being sent long distances and held for who-knows-how-long, it is a good idea to make up for disappearing nutrients with a multi-vitamin pill. My problem is that many of the newer vitamins are like swallowing a rock.


The pharmacist looked over the selection and handed me a bottle of “old fashioned” plain, small pills without the hype that they can lower cholesterol, are specially designed for women and all those sorts of claims. I purchased the bottle.


When I returned home, I put them on the shelf and then I noticed they were bright red. Why? I have been hard at work on both my Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives and A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients.


Colors of both natural and synthetic origin are extensively used in food, cosmetics and pills. When the letters FD & C precede a color it means the color can be used in a food, drug, or cosmetic. When D & C precede the color, it signifies that it can only be used in drugs or cosmetics, but not in food. Ext. D & C before a color means that it is certified for external use only in drugs and cosmetics and may not be used on the lips or mucous membranes.


I put on my glasses and read the small print on the label with difficulty. I finally found the color listing—it was Red 40.


FD & C Red No. 40 is one of the most widely used colorings in the United States. Its safety has long been questioned because it was rushed to market and many scientists feel that it should not have been given permanent listing just based solely on the manufacturer’s tests.


A multitude of our products that we swallow or paint on ourselves are colored.  Among the natural colors widely used are alkanet, annatto, carotene, chlorophyll, cochineal, saffron, and turmeric. The market for natural colors is expanding worldwide because the aware consumer is increasingly conscious about side effects associated with prolonged use of some synthetic coloring compounds.


The United Kingdom last year issued a ban on the synthetic colorings Tartrazine Yellow, Quinoline Yellow, Sunset yellow, Carmoisine Red, Ponceau Red and Allura Red. That last in the United States is labeled Red No.40.


The British believe scientists have shown the colorings they are trying to ban have an adverse affect on the behavior of children. Many American scientists feel that the safety of FD & C Red No. 40, in particular, is far from established, particularly because all the tests were conducted by the manufacturer. Therefore, the dye should not have received a permanent safety rating, especially since The National Cancer Institute reported that p-credine, a chemical used in the preparation of FD & C Red No. 40, was a cancer-causing agent in animals.


So now my face is red because I didn’t really read the label on the vitamin pills carefully in the store. I am now in a hard place. Do I swallow a vitamin “rock” or opt for the little Red 40 colored vitamin pill?




When I approached my home on my walk from grammar school at lunch time, I could hear the record my mother would play for me each day about Popeye- The- Sailor man eating his spinach. I was a rather frail child and she hoped the music from the cartoon character who had great strength because he ate the green leafy vegetable would entice me to eat it and become stronger.


I did eat the vegetable because I loved the cartoon character but I still looked more like Olive Oil, Popeye’s skinny girl friend, than Popeye. My mother, however, was right about spinach being nourishing because it is an excellent source of magnesium, iron, potassium and Vitamin A, and a good source of calcium and Vitamin C. 


She also tried to get me to eat an apple-a-day to keep the doctor away. Fortunately, even though I ate an apple a day, it didn’t keep all the doctors away. I married one. But again, my mother was right, although she may have not known the exact reason. Apples have a combination of plant chemicals, such as flavonoids and polyphenols—collectively known as phytochemicals—found within the flesh of an apple, particularly in the skin. These provide the fruit’s antioxidant and anti-cancer benefits. An apple polyphenol extract from unripe apples, in addition, was found by Japanese researcher to reduce symptoms of fatigue and improve physical performance during exercise. Writing in the journal Nutrition, lead author Suzuka Ataka from Osaka City University Graduate School of Medicine reports that oral supplementation with the apple extract may find a place in the growing sports nutrition market. 


In researching recently for A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients (Three Rivers Press) I found that there is more to the benefit of apples than my mother could have imagined.  PhytoCellTec Malus (apples) Domestica, reportedly boosts the production of human stem cells and is being promoted as protecting human stem cells from stress and wrinkles, Mibelle AG Biochemistry, which specializes in the research and development of active ingredients for the cosmetic industry, says the  a novel plant cell culture technology has been invented to cultivate cells from a rare Swiss apple: “These apple stem cells are rich in epigenetic factors and metabolites, assuring the longevity of skin cells.” Epigenetic factors generally turn genes on or off, allowing or preventing the gene from being used to make a protein. A metabolite is a substance necessary for or taking part in a particular metabolic process. Examples of metabolites are glucose in the metabolism of sugars and starches, amino acids in the body’s production of proteins, and squalene in the body’s manufacture of cholesterol. 


My mother, of course, gave me chicken soup when I wasn’t feeling well and scientists now say it has benefits for cold sufferers besides the heat and fluid. 

The one thing my mother was not right about was telling me to “clean my plate because children in China were starving.” That might have been good advice for me as a skinny kid but now that I am grown, eating everything on the plate is a bad idea, especially with the overgenerous portions American serve. Maybe Popeye ate too much spinach and that’s why the youngest generation today doesn’t know the song of the Sailor man and I have to fight not to eat everything on my plate.