Sodium won’t catch up

Ketchup or catsup? At least as far as my browser’s built-in spellchecker is concerned, it’s definitely the former. It chokes on the latter.

I went to Wal-Mart last night to get a good deal on cat food. I normally avoid Wal-Mart like the plague. I hate that place. While there, however, I remembered we were out of ketchup, so I attempted to traverse my way to the grocery section – without the aid of a map.

I found ketchup and began scanning the various shapes and sizes focusing on cost per ounce. A mysterious empty section of the shelf caught my eye. It was completely empty. A little label said “Heinz Ketchup, 40 ounce, $1.00.” Whoa! What the heck was that all about? At my local grocery store this would have been $3 or more. I bent down and saw four bottles way in the back. They were mine! I watched like a hawk at checkout and sure enough, those bottles were $1 each with no coupon. Wow.

I love ketchup. A lot. It’s by far my favorite condiment. It goes on fries (of course), hash browns, scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, meat loaf (pre-veggie days) and probably a few other things I’m forgetting. My wife the expert cook doesn’t use it quite as much as me and many times I’ve tried to use it on her cooking and have received the Stare of Death.

The ingredients in Heinz ketchup (per the label) are:

  • Tomato concentrate from red ripe tomatoes
  • Distilled vinegar
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Salt
  • Spice
  • Onion powder
  • Natural flavoring

Wow. High fructose corn syrup! The label says a “serving” of ketchup is 1 tablespoon and contains 15 calories. A tablespoon is three teaspoons and a teaspoon of sugar has 15 calories. So I guess that means that ketchup is made of about the equivalent of one-third sugar. Yikes.

On a 2,000 calorie per day diet those calories represent about 3.3% of your “daily values” or DV (even though the label doesn’t actually do the DV math on calories).

Then the word “sodium” on the label caught my eye. A serving contains 190mg or 8% of DV. Eight percent of your daily salt limit in a single tablespoon of ketchup? Yikes, that seems high. That must have something to do with the fact that “salt” is the fifth ingredient (by volume). I can only imagine what happens when I use ketchup on my heavily over-salted french fries.

Earlier this month Heinz quietly changed their formula for ketchup. It was the first “significant” change to their recipe in nearly 40 years. A company spokesperson said that the change will not be noted on product packaging except, presumably, in the Nutrition Facts box. The amount of sodium reduction will be about 15 percent or 160mg per serving.

This recipe change pertains to the United States version of Heinz ketchup. In Canada the recipe is already only 140mg of sodium per serving and “tends to have a sweeter taste than the U.S. version.”

The politics of ketchup? We heard a bit about Heinz when John Kerry was running for president. This sodium change, however, is at least in part to the “National Salt Reduction Initiative” spearheaded by New York City and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “Heinz is one of 16 major food manufacturers that has voluntarily joined the program.”

So, naturally, web sites like the aptly named Hot Air decry Heinz ketchup a “casualty of the liberal doctrine.” Yeah, whatever.

I personally believe the average American diet contains way too much salt. I salt very few things like steak (which I don’t eat any more) and corn on the cob. I believe that most processed foods we eat already contain so much salt it would be nuts to add more.

51 responses

  1. Hey, don’t dis Hot Air, my second favorite blog site (after yours, of course!) I’m glad to see you’re reading it, and eventually you will get it, ha, ha. (You knew this would get my goat, didn’t cha!)

    I don’t eat much ketchup and certainly not Heinz (it’s salsa for me, muchacho), but I appreciate the salt discussion. Salt used to be so valuable (hence salary…didn’t you talk about that once?), but now it’s gaining the reputation of plutonium. I love salt, I must confess, particularly garlic salt. It keeps away the vampires.

    I’ve been thinking about this nanny state intrusion into our condiment area. Reminds me of the old flouride-in-the-water tussle years ago. I love aluminum refining waste in my water!

    (I read about this years ago and just found it again. Love the internet!) There is an area in Texas that has naturally occurring lithium. The populace supposedly has better mental health than counties without lithium. A person or two actually suggested putting it other cities’ water. I could probably use some lithium so I wouldn’t be so uptight about how the country is sliding into financial ruin at a rapid clip.
    Story about lithium:

    Story about fear from that liberal rag The NY Times.
    Europeans Fear Crisis Threatens Liberal Benefits

    For your reading pleasure:


    1. I would never try to get your goat. I was merely responding to nonsense like calling a reduction of salt in food a “casualty of the liberal doctrine.” Shit, they’re asking for it by saying stuff like that and it is rude not to accept. πŸ™‚

      I thought the Hot Air coverage was mostly accurate and interesting. They were one of the few places that I saw that covered the Bloomberg angle. But they make it sound like liberals forced the new recipe upon the company and that simply isn’t true. The company voluntarily chose to participate in the “National Salt Reduction Initiative” program. That’s a free market win-win. The company makes their decision then consumers make theirs. Will Heinz be rewarded for this change or punished by the market?

      Nanny state? Do you really view a voluntary program in that light? If anything it is a “do-gooder program,” methinks.

      I generally buy brand X ketchup based on price since my taste buds just aren’t that picky. But yeah, I do loves me some ketchup. A lot. πŸ™‚ And now I have four big bottles thanks to the $1 price at Wal-Mart.

      The lithium thing looks interesting. I’ll take a look.

      And regarding that final link … good find! I’ll check out that site as time permits. Second only to me? It must be good. πŸ™‚


      1. I didn’t mean nanny state for Heinz. That is Teresa’s outfit, so she would gladly do it. New York City is limiting sodium in restaurants, and I don’t think that’s voluntary.(I need a link here) One thing restrictions like that do is favor large chains, because they have the funds to test the products to conform. I think a lot of nanny restrictions are good, such as requiring seat belts and child seats. I won’t start my engine unless everyone is belted. I’m Ms Nanny myself. One relative said he didn’t like to wear a belt. I said: “Tough. Get out then. I’m not having you flying around the floor killing everyone else if we have an accident.” He buckled up.


    2. Health
      The Hard Sell on Salt
      Published: May 29, 2010 New York Times
      The salt industry is working overtly and behind the scenes to fend off public-health attacks on salt, using a shifting set of tactics that have defeated similar efforts for 30 years.


      1. Let me guess. This is the “salt ain’t so bad” approach, right? LOLZ! πŸ™‚


      2. Hey, if it’s in the New York Times, it’s gotta be the troooooth! But actually, it’s a fascinating read.


  2. You watch the price of salt will go up now. All those damn high cholesterol salt crazing freaks will be buying it in droves to sprinkle on their Ketchup!


    1. Ketchup sprinkled with salt? Brilliant! πŸ™‚

      Heinz claims they taste tested the new recipe in something like six major cities and they feel consumers won’t freak about the switch. We’ll see.

      Interesting, though, that even when they reduce it here in the states it is still higher than Canada. We really love us some salt.


  3. As one who has been having a LOT of problems caused by the salt and the sugar in my diet, I’m at once happy that something is being done about pre-processed foods and afraid that the gov’t idiots will go too far. In the end, as long as people are provided enough info to make well informed decisions, I think that everyone should have the right to decide for themselves. The trick is getting the manufacturers to play fair when they’re terrified about their bottom lines. 😐

    Maybe what the gov’t guys should be doing is mandating affordable prices for the healthy alternatives. Have you seen how much more the good stuff costs?!?! As much as I need to switch to them, I just can’t afford it! 😯


    1. The bit about getting manufacturers to play fair while terrified about their bottom lines is brilliant. Nice summation of the situation.

      How would the government price mandating work? Maybe you could show me an example? Does that mean ketchup makers with lower levels of sodium would get subsidies? As a junior member of the tea party I’m not much on subsidies and government throwing dollars at things.


      1. Sorry. I regretted my choice of words almost as soon as I hit “Submit Comment.” 😳

        What I meant was that the same pressures that got these companies to “volunteer” in this program. I’m talking about the SHAME of having your products renounced repeatedly as a threat the your customer’s health! It’s all about the fear of the bottom line again. It should be pointed out, loudly and clearly, that these companies aren’t doing nearly enough to come up with “tasty yet healthy” versions of their products. If we shame them enough, they’ll start racing to be the first, or the best, or whatever way they choose to spin it, ones to offer healthy alternatives that are just as affordable as the unhealthy ones.

        Oh yeah, I’m a big believer in the shame component of the free market system! πŸ˜€


  4. “I personally believe the average American diet contains way too much salt.”

    I guess thats the difference between conservatives and progressives. Conservatives believe in individual responsibility. the progressive believes the morons in congress should control their entire well being, Constitution be damned.

    Ohh and Catherine is right, Hotair is an excellent blog.


    1. Ah, Elric. One of my biggest fans. How nice to see you again. It’s comforting to know you are always out there pumping up my stats. πŸ™‚

      Once again, however, your comment goes tangential. I’m happy to chit chat with you again as long as you are able to keep your comments on point.

      Here is an assertion statement:
      “The average American diet contains way too much salt.”

      To begin, let’s establish whether or not you accept the truthfulness and accuracy of that basic statement. I’ll admit that perhaps I should have dropped the word “way” since that is subjective.

      The Mayo clinic seems to back up my assertion and my point about processed foods:

      You’ve been trying to eat less sodium β€” just a pinch of table salt on your baked potato and a dash on your scrambled eggs. But a pinch here and a dash there can quickly add up to unhealthy levels of sodium. Consider that just one teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium. And it’s not just table salt you have to worry about. Many processed and prepared foods already contain lots of sodium.

      In fact, if you’re like many people, you’re getting far more sodium than is recommended, and that could lead to serious health problems. See how sodium sneaks into your diet and ways you can shake the habit.

      Source: Mayo Clinic

      Some say that salt is the favorite ingredient of Americans, and many have acquired a taste for a high salt diet. One way to cut back is to skip the table salt. However, most sodium in the diet comes from packaged, processed foods. Eating these foods less often can reduce your intake of sodium and can help lower your blood pressure or prevent HBP from developing in the first place.


      And agreeing with Catherine always earns major points in my book. Be careful or I’ll like you. πŸ™‚


  5. As with anything, the key here is education. People need to learn what goes into their food and they need to learn how to read Nutrition Labels. Not only learn how to read them, but become trained to read them every time, all the time. Then, it will be the consumers, not the government, who force the products to change.
    For a few years now, I’ve been reading every label and, just as an experiment, have tried to not buy anything with high fructose corn syrup in it. It’s frightening how many products (ones that normally wouldn’t contain any sugar like wheat bread) contain it. I’ve become a lot more picky about what I buy since I’ve been reading the Nutrition Labels.


  6. Can you tell Sweet Wife that the Stare of Death makes it hard for you to concentrate? πŸ™‚


    1. And how! πŸ™‚

      Also, just an FYI. I’m having a Monday filled with delicious torment in your memory.


  7. Wow — I have just taken Ketchup off my grocery list! I had no idea. Gracias. I always learn something from you…. thank goodness I’m not a salt junkie. I never add salt to anything at all, but…I had no idea about Heinz ketchup. Ugghhh…. even with the modification, I’m thinking ketchup may not be the best condiment for me — I think I’ll go with Catherine’s idea up above and stick to SALSA!


    1. Wait. Don’t be so hasty! πŸ™‚ Ketchup is delicious and I love ketchup. I love salsa, too. I’m looking forward to tasting the new Heinz ketchup. I seriously doubt I’ll even be able to tell the difference. πŸ™‚


      1. Okay, well, once you’ve tried you give me a follow-up and I’ll reconsider (they should really pay you a commission though! Hee!).


  8. That is scary. Then again, I oversalt EVERYTHING. Maybe you have low blood pressure like me? Because apparently, with low blood pressure, it’s good to have salt!


    1. Amazingly as I surfed the web and learned more than I ever expected about a simple “Heinz is reducing salt” post, I realize there is some disagreement about too much sodium, too. I read one comment that claimed the average person in Japan consumes four times the salt as the average American. I have no idea if that is true, but it does make you think.

      I’ve never had a blood pressure problem and I naturally try to avoid salt as much as I can simply because I’m quite positive that a normal day exceeds my daily requirements.


  9. unabridgedgirl | Reply

    I am not a huge fan ketchup. So, I don’t have to worry about my intake of salt where that is concerned.


    1. Do you eat french fries? You do put ketchup on them, right? Don’t make me worry so much, this is a serious issue! :p


      1. unabridgedgirl

        I dip my fries in fry sauce (it’s a UT thing, I think?), and sometimes…I even dip them in honey mustard. O.O


  10. “To begin, let’s establish whether or not you accept the truthfulness and accuracy of that basic statement.”

    So? What business is of yours? Not satisfied about telling ppl where they can and cant smoke? Where does it end?


    1. Well done! You were able to acknowledge a basic fact.

      To be accurate, no one is telling anyone anything here. It’s a voluntary program. One that I bet Heinz decided just might be beneficial to their bottom line. (A guess on my part.)

      Americans are still free to exercise personal choice and eat as much or as little salt as they want. There are no laws either way. Go buy yourself a SALT LICK if it floats your boat. πŸ™‚


  11. “One that I bet Heinz decided just might be beneficial to their bottom line.”

    Yeah once the government talked about regulating salt like they are doing in NYC. So again, where does it stop? Where do you draw the line in government controlling your life?


    1. So now people aren’t allowed to talk?


  12. I grew up in Nebraska putting that red stuff on cooked spinach! About the salt thing. Today I was on yard duty and looked over at yet another obese child devouring a family-size bag of Hot Cheetos. I was in a feisty mood and informed her that she was just consuming fat and salt (this said while she licked her fingers clean).


    1. I tried. I’m not seeing it. πŸ™‚

      Tell you what, though. I’ll give it a try then document for posterity what my wife yells at me when I do. πŸ™‚

      I think we did a blog Twix, too. I was probably writing about Flamin’ Hot Cheetos at the same time you were. πŸ™‚


  13. I am going to amend the agenda to mandate vinegar on fries.


    1. Mmm. Fish and chips. “Behold the chip! The English contribution to world cuisine!” Otto in A Fish Called Wanda.


  14. Oops, Cathy. My reply shows up way down here. I hope you find it.

    Re: Nanny state.

    I liked your driving the car story. As the driver you are the “captain” of your “ship.” Maritime laws apply, I’m pretty sure. You could have kicked him out for not wearing his belt or maybe married him to someone else in the car. πŸ™‚

    The problem with doing away with the “nanny state” is that the law of the land becomes the lowest fucking common denominator that is humanly possible. When it comes to obviliot and cretinous parents that denominator can be pretty fucking low indeed.

    I’m a big fan of freedom, but when the price paid for doing nothing becomes too high (especially against the helpless and the innocent) than I’m willing to sacrifice a bit for the greater good. Who gives a shit if some asshole anarchist wants to see more babies explode by the time they turn 10? I’d rather see more babies live longer. In my opinion every person born deserves a fair shake and if that means we have to “nanny” a few parents then so be it.

    Is salt that line in the sand? Probably not. Greasy burgers? Probably not? Smoking (like my good buddy Elric suggests)? Even I have never advocated that but I’m not quite as quick to say, “probably not.”

    Sometimes we need a bit of nanny state.


  15. ok so i didn’t read all 30 comments because I am pretty sure they were mostly concerning the sodium content, and our diets and health, health, health….
    I am more concerned that my favorite ketchup is now going to taste like hunts ketchup and be too sweet!

    thanks for the info. Ketchup is one of my favorite foods!


    1. I hope not! I’m betting we won’t even be able to tell the difference. I just stocked up so bring on the blind test test! πŸ™‚


  16. “So now people aren’t allowed to talk?”

    Did I say that? Once they saw that the Federal government is looking to regulate salt, they went ahead. Again, where do you draw the line. You kinda avoided that question.


    1. The bottom line is that you are crying about voluntary initiatives. I don’t think “nanny” complaints can have much validity when there is no force of law.


  17. “Sometimes we need a bit of nanny state.”

    And that bit gets larger and larger. Just sad that you think these morons in DC can make better decision about your life than you can. What makes you think so?


    1. Did you read what I wrote? I never said DC can make better decisions about my life than I can. Go back and re-read what I said and try again.


  18. I have recently developed a soft spot for unshelled salted peanuts, and even though the container says that eating a certain amount per day can be good for your heart, I have a feeling it’s as deceptively healthy as ketchup. I thought it was kind of funny that you mentioned Jim Gaffigan in your last post and then followed that up with a discussion of ketchup, a Gaffigan comedy staple.

    A post about ketchup could only get 30 plus comments if politics were involved and I don’t want to get into that LOL


  19. Yum…ketchup. Sometimes I think fries and other food just act as a vehicle for the ketchup. You know what else is good? Mixing a little bit of mustard in the ketchup and then dipping fries.


    1. I like the way you think! πŸ™‚

      I’ve often thought it would be nice to have a french fry restaurant. We’d offer a few varieties of fries and various dipping sauces. I think that would be fun. πŸ™‚


      1. Sounds good! What are your thoughts on cheese fries?


  20. My mom and brother belong to that club of people who salt their food before they even taste it. When we were kids, my brother would get up from the dinner table and there would be a ring of salt in a circular shape left there — outlining where his dinner plate had been.

    I have a proclivity toward salty foods, but I rarely add any to my food. In fact, I don’t even have a salt shaker, just one of those big cans of iodized salt that I use from time to time when baking and cooking. I have to say, though, that if I had to pick between fat and salt, I’d pick salt every time.


    1. Add salt before even tasting food reminds me of something. Back when I had a “real” job the company would make people applying for management positions meet with the company shrink. When I applied several friends of mine who had already made the cut advised me on the shrink’s tricks. (Apparently he had a standard regimen of tests he would put you through. Psychology at its finest.)

      One of the tricks was asking if he could get you something to drink. If you said “no” he’d subtly try to get you to accept a drink by not dropping it. If you gave into his repeated asking and changed your mind that would be a mark against you.

      At lunch he’d watch you to see if you salted your food before tasting. If you did that would be a mark against you.

      I highly doubted what could be gleaned from tricks like that but I had been schooled so I didn’t fall for them and I got the job. πŸ™‚

      I’m like you. I hardly ever add salt.


  21. No wonder ketchup doesn’t taste like tomato.


    1. LOL! Who wants that? πŸ™‚ One thing I’ve learned is that while it is true Heinz and Hunts dominate the ketchup landscape, there are lots of niche alternatives out there. You aren’t limited to what the big boys say and there are a lot of interesting flavors waiting to be tried. Maybe one of them will have more tomato-like qualities! πŸ™‚


  22. Cheese fries? Yum. What’s not to like? Fries? Good! Cheese? Good! (I just channeled Joey from Friends.) Of course, I’m still adding ketchup!

    Cheese fries are good, but are too sophisticated for everyday use. I generally save them for special occasions like weddings, funerals and super bowls. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the comment!


  23. Is there a link between sodium (the element found in salt) and hypertension?

    When the people who profit from salt say things like “buy more salt” and “salt isn’t bad for you” I tend to be skeptical that is their wallet talking.

    Statements like, “Food will taste worse or be more expensive without salt” are straw-man arguments in discussions regarding the health effects of salt.


    1. Hi, I think your reply above is a reply to my link to the NY Times article way up yonder. The comments on that NYT article are interesting. Many suggest not eating food from the “food industry,” which is darned good advice. I’ve started doing that, but then my children are grown, so I don’t have the daily demands of feeding them. But their health and future eating habits are all the more reason to avoid processed foods. I curse the day I ever cooked up a batch of boxed macaroni and cheese. That stuff is like heroin to kids. And terrible for you.

      I’m not against regulations. Sometimes regulations are hastily drawn up and have unintended consequences, however. For example, requiring extensive food information in restaurants sounds good and is good in most cases, but the expense falls hardest on small businesses. If you’re a TGI Friday’s, you can spread your cost of figuring out what’s in your mac and cheese across all of your many, many franchises. If you’re Mama Leoni’s single restaurant, you don’t have that option. Nevertheless, we do want all restaurants to be clean and cock-roach free!

      The history of salt and humans is fascinating. Roman Legionnaires supposedly were given a salt ration, hence the word “salary.” Sal is Latin for Salt.

      In Hutchinson, Kansas, is an old salt mine, which houses old movie masters. It’s an ideal environment for storage. (Kansas was once a great sea, and we’re still finding mosasaurs encrypted in our limestone, which is in itself the skeletons of zillions of long-dead tiny creatures.),_Kansas


  24. Yes, that last comment was in reply to your latest comment. Sorry, but the “nesting” structure of WordPress in situations like these can be woefully inadequate. Their nesting approach isn’t really suitable for “forum” type of discussions.

    I make a homemade mac and cheese and it is light years beyond what you can get from a box. Truly!

    I don’t know if regulation is always the proper answer. In some cases it is. That said, I don’t think I’d agree with the regulation of salt. I can see it now on Top Chef:

    Judge: “Chef, did you season this?!?!?”
    Contestant (sarcastically) : “No. Did you see the government regulators at my station?”

    Processed foods have got to be one of the worst things for us to eat. In essence they are merely an exchange of time, value, convenience and flavor for an equal amount of health. That’s not a good trade in my opinion.

    My point about listening to industry tell us about what is good for us was more about their knee-jerk response to go to strange places. Like suddenly it’s, “Hey. All the research connecting sodium to hypertension may be a load of bull.” Really? Like your wallet has nothing to do with your opinion on that? Pleeeeeze.

    Very interesting about “salary.” And the salt mine in Kansas. Thanks for the links!


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