55. Many Americans don't understand the food labels, or Nutrition Facts, on the packages of their processed foods. The labels contain important information about what's in the food, including the amount of salt, which is a very popular additive. Even though health practitioners and the federal government itself tell consumers to watch their salt intake, processors continue to add salt to packaged food.
Salt occurs naturally in many foods. For example, raisins, as sweet as they are, contain the tiniest bit of salt. For many other foods that may already contain salt naturally, processors add more. Why? For some foods, particularly meat, salt works as a preservative.
For some foods, salt is added to increase thirst. Many bars offer free pretzels and peanuts to their patrons. The salty pretzels and peanuts increase the patrons' thirst. They order another drink. And another. The pretzels and peanuts aren't really free; they're part of the cost of the drinks.
The most common reason to add salt is simply to add flavor to the food so that consumers buy it again. Consumers select many packaged foods with added salt while shopping in their supermarket. Parents often bring their kids along while shopping. Kids think shopping is fun, but parents can also make shopping a learning experience, as in the following dialogue between a mother and her son.
"Read the Nutrition Facts label to see how much salt is in this box of chicken noodle soup."
"Mom, there's no salt at all in this soup."
"Yes, there is. Just look where it says 'sodium'—that's another name for salt."
"Oh, okay. Why doesn't it just say 'salt'? It says 'Sodium, 800 mg, 33%.' I know what milligrams are, but what does 33% mean?" 6.4, 288
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