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A Question That's Too Salty

Topics: Measurement , Rasmussen

I got an email yesterday from Alan Abramowitz flagging this question released Monday by Rasmussen Reports from an automated survey of American adults (not likely voters):

Some public health groups are urging the FDA to set mandatory standards for how much salt is allowed in food. Should the government set limits on how much salt Americans can eat?

33% Yes
55% No
12% Not sure

The government setting limits on how much salt we can eat? Is that what "some public health groups" are urging? Not quite.

Here's the story as reported in last week's Washington Post (emphasis added):

Two members of Congress urged the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday to move quickly to limit the amount of salt in processed foods, calling the matter a "public health crisis" that demanded a swift response from government.

[...]

Their comments came after the release Tuesday of a report of experts, convened by the Institute of Medicine, that found that most Americans are consuming dangerous levels of sodium and that voluntary efforts by the food industry to reduce salt have failed. The report recommended that the FDA immediately launch efforts to limit salt levels over a period of years to allow consumers to adjust to less salty food.

The Institute of Medicine is proposing to limit the amount of salt in processed food. No one is urging the government to restrict the sale of salt or "set limits on how much salt Americans can eat." Even if "public health groups" got their way, anyone could still choose to salt their food as much as they want.

It would be interesting to see how Americans react to the idea of the government limiting the salt levels allowed in processed foods. Unfortunately, that's not the question that Rasmussen asked.

See a poll question that's similarly leading or biased? Drop us an email.

 

Comments
Trey Fairweather:

I just got a totally out of the box idea that apparantly no one has thought of before: how about if you are worried about the amount of salt in processed foods you....wait for it.... eat less processed foods! crazy eh? or better yet read the ingredients list and if salt is near the top dont buy it. That way people who prefer salt over long life get what they want and people who prefer long life over salt (like me) get what they want.

But I guess this is just the natural corallary of nationalized health care. If the state provides for your health care the state gets to tell you how to be healthy. Heil Obama glorious and wise!

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Trey Fairweather:

I just got a totally out of the box idea that apparantly no one has thought of before: how about if you are worried about the amount of salt in processed foods you....wait for it.... eat less processed foods! crazy eh? or better yet read the ingredients list and if salt is near the top dont buy it. That way people who prefer salt over long life get what they want and people who prefer long life over salt (like me) get what they want.

But I guess this is just the natural corallary of nationalized health care. If the state provides for your health care the state gets to tell you how to be healthy. Heil Obama glorious and wise!

____________________

Paul:

Must we put up with uber-partisan posts like Mr Fairweather's on this site?

I don't care whether people are pro or anti anything - but I don't like coming on this site and seeing the same kind of sniping that occurs everywhere else. Shouldn't comments be limited to those about polling, as opposed to policy or political rants? It's just so tiresome

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Westwoodnc Westwoodnc:

I want to know what makes processed food, processed?

"No one is urging the government to restrict the sale of salt or "set limits on how much salt Americans can eat." Uhm, if that law isn't doing that, then it's not working as intended. The law is about limiting the intake of salt by limiting it in the foods we eat.

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AySz88:

I also pretty much agree with Paul; please keep things on-topic. It's not really that hard to avoid breaking the meta-discussion.

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Aaron_in_TX:

It'll never happen. Salt and sugar are both powerful lobbies in Washington. Eric Schlosser talks about this in his book, Fast Food Nation. It's an even bigger problem now since food manufacturers use sodium to replace fat for flavor in so-called "healthier" foods, low fat options, etc...

Best option would be to put some sort of warning labels that scream at you that eating these foods will contribute to your early death. Kind of like cigarettes. It's effective over time and technically an education campaign, not a mandate. Still, the processed food industry is a huge money maker, and a lot of the manufacturing is actually done in America, so expect very few politicians to talk much about regulating salt.

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Aaron_in_TX:

I think also a big problem is a lot of restaurants won't release their nutrition information. IHOP is a great example. Good luck finding their nutrition info on their website. Restaurant chains fought NYC's requirement to include calorie counts on menus tooth and nail. I heard some chains just closed their NYC stores rather than comply, even though the law hasn't seemed to have much effect on people that are determined to eat badly anyway.

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Nick10:

There could be a problem with this question.

"Should the government set limits on how much salt Americans can eat?"

How can government possibly do that??? No wonder 55% said "No". Will Salt Squads be visiting every American home to inventory sodium intake? (Except Oklahoma where the new militia will handle that.)

I think Rasmussen & Co. meant to ask regulate sodium content in food items including processed food.

Nick


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CHRIS MERKEY:

I agree with you 100% Aaron. Some kind of warning regarding sodium that is marked on the package like contains higher amounts of sodium than is recommdended by the FDA. Has to be in large print also. Some people will still eat it just like some people eat Mcdonalds and know that it is pretty bad for you. i think a warning at least helps especially if you have certain health conditions.

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newageblues:

It's great to see an actual loaded Rasmussen question. The key point may be that a bogusly worded (in this case) question like this sets off anti- overreaching government anger in the respondent, which affects answers to other questions, skewing them to the right. Democratic oriented pollsters can do the same sort of thing of course. Very useful to see a good example of a poll-distorting question.

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