The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Kosher vs. Sea Salt

Kosher vs. Sea Salt

Shoppers and Trends

March 30, 2008

Kosher vs. Sea Salt
Dear Phil,
We know that table salt products contain additives such as iodine, while kosher salt is additive-free. Unrefined sea salt naturally contains about 80 trace minerals and elements – one of these being mercury at approximately .0000002%. Does it make any sense for the food industry to use unrefined sea salt occasionally considering the mercury content, though it contains it in such a trace amount?
Sea salt is usually used to add a burst of briny or sweet flavor to just-cooked foods. Kosher salt dissolves quickly, and is generally used in all kinds of cooking to enhance a food’s natural flavor. Since sea salt is much more expensive than kosher salt, and less versatile, it is unlikely that we will be seeing an industry switch to using it in place of kosher salt anytime soon. Sea salt is more commonly used in specialty cooking.
In terms of your mercury question, the lowest mercury level in adults associated with toxic effects is 200 parts per million in blood, and 50 parts per million in hair, accumulated over months to years of eating contaminated food. For fish exposed to mercury, the FDA recommends that levels not exceed 1 part per million for healthy consumption. Therefore, with sea salt at .0000002 parts per million, we have little cause for concern.
Have a question about the latest food and science news? Or just want to find out if that "old wives tale" that your shopper keeps on insisting is correct...really true or not? Click here to send us a question. Each month, we'll answer your questions about food, nutrition and science. And here’s something else to get excited about. If we use your question, we’ll give you a free iPod.