It has been said by many commentators that the potential regulation that limits the amount of salt in foods does not limit freedom because, after all, you can add salt to anything. So really, it increases net freedom since people who like salt can still add it, and people who don’t now have the option to have less of it. There are several problems with this.

First off, I’m no chef, but it strikes me as obvious that for many foods there is a difference between cooking, baking, and generally preparing food with salt as an ingredient and sprinkling it onto food after the fact.  Since I know little to nothing about cooking, I’ll go no further with this except to say that it strikes me as obvious, and ask does anyone seriously disagree with that? If you do, buy some low sodium pepperoni, and then sprinkle salt on top. Same thing as regular pepperoni? I seriously doubt it.

The second problem is that food products, like many products, are actually a commodity bundled with a service. When you buy a loaf of bread you are not just buying a random collection raw ingredients put together, you are buying the service of the bread-makers best guess at the mix of ingredients that you will enjoy most. When I buy a loaf of bread at the grocery store, I’m buying the service of the baker taking his best guess at what level of salt the customer likes. This way I don’t want to have to deal with the iterative process of sampling every loaf of bread I buy, adding salt, and thinking about whether the salt level is just right. I’d prefer to pay to have that service performed for me by the baker. In a similar vein, at a nice restaurant part of the service I’m purchasing is the expertise of the chef in adding, among other things, the best tasting amount of salt. This regulation prevents me from purchasing that service.

You may prefer to have things the other way, and be able to select the amount of salt in all your food, and this law would increase your ability to do so. But the value to consumers of being able to select their salt amount is far less than the value to consumers of having their salt amount selected for them. How do I know this? If consumers valued it, then they would be willing to pay for it, and businesses would offer it. Since businesses offer a lot of one and little of the other, it’s a good indicator that consumers value one much more than the other.

About these ads