September 13 2011

Weak Sauce: British Consumers Reject New Healthier, Low-Sodium, Awful-Tasting Sauce

Libby Jacobson

American nanny-statists have an ally across the pond in their war on food. In an effort to reduce the UK population's salt intake, the British government has been pressuring food makers to reduce the sodium content in their products. One company that has signed onto this initiative is Heinz, makers of America's most ubiquitous processed tomato product, and of Britain's popular HP Sauce. The company recently changed the beloved, 116-year-old sauce recipe, cutting the amount of sodium from 2.1 grams per serving to just 1.3 grams.

Most Americans can predict what happens when food companies suddenly overhaul a popular recipe. Campbell's introduced a low-sodium soup line a few years ago, but recently decided to add salt back to its soups after disappointing consumer interest in the product. And though Bill Cosby may have loved the "New Coke," the rebranded soft drink was met with a heavy consumer backlash, and even prompted the formation of a public interest group ("The Old Cola Drinkers of America") to try to force Coca-Cola to bring the old beverage back. Unsurprisingly, some British consumers are similarly outraged:

But fans of the sauce say the small change has altered the whole taste, and they are not happy.

The most famous critic, Michelin-starred Marco Pierre White, said he sent back a meal of sausages and mash at Piers Morgan's Kensington pub The Hansom Cab last week because he thought it was off. "At first, I thought it was the sausages, but it wasn't," he said. "It was the HP, which tasted disgusting. It was definitely dodgy. I had no idea they had changed the recipe.

"I was brought up on HP Sauce in Yorkshire. My old man used to say ketchup was for Southerners and HP was for Northerners. My father would turn in his grave if he discovered they changed the recipe."

British health experts claim that the low-sodium initiative, which aims to reduce the average individual salt intake by 1 gram per day, will save 4,000 lives each year. However, recent research suggests the evidence supporting the dangerous view of salt is inconclusive, or even flimsy. And the Telegraph (linked above) points out that in HP Sauce's case, Heinz has compensated for the reduced sodium by adding more calories and carbohydrates than the original formula, so it seems the "healthier" option is probably a wash.

British and American nanny-state efforts to force people into eating a government-approved diet, as well as the larger war on obesity, are based more on fear and rabble-rousing than science. The Health at Every Size blogger community has a great saying: "Food has no moral value." And even if it did, governments have no place in deciding which sauce, soda or fried snack we choose to put in our bodies.

Hey food police: stop serving up such weak sauce.

(Via MyFoodMyChoice; H/T Iain and Michelle).

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