What's In Your Gourmet Kitchen? - Part 3

Now we’re gonna move on to our second gourmet product which is salt. Here’s a little history of salt:
Over history, it’s been considered worth its weight in gold. It was traded as a commodity. Different places around the world have gone under siege for their access to salt. There were salt roads created that have to go to and from the salt mines. Salt was a commodity like spices were. In Romans’ time, Romans were given salary or their “salarium argentum” . Sorry I don’t speak Latin, I’m sorry but I’m butchering it, which was basically money for salt. So, the Romans were given their money or their salary for salt.
In India, Mahatma Gandhi conducted his “salt march” to free India from British colonial rule and the salt tax. And here in the U.S, there had been salt wars or salt ambushes to protest the control of salt. As I’ve said before, it was used as currency. Salt had been worshipped as divinity and in many modern and ancient religions; salt is part of the worship service. And before the industrial revolution, salt mining was a very dangerous process and was involved in the slave trade, because slaves were often used to mine salt.
When we look at salt in biology, the human body cannot exist without salt or sodium. It controls our blood volume and our muscle contractions. It can control nervous impulses. It’s one of the four primary electrolytes of the body. And all four of the cationic electrolytes, sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium are available in unrefined salt. If you have too much or too little salt in your body, it can range from a huge amount of conditions from dizziness to death. If your balance of electrolytes is off including sodium, you can easily die.
So we have our twelve different gourmet salts which differ from different crystal sizes such as these really large, black, pyramid-shaped crystals to very fine powders. They range in different regions. We have Mediterranean salt, Australian salt, Himalayan salt, salt from France, salt from Israel. So they range from all over the world. They also range, as you can see on the picture, greatly in color, we have red, brown, yellow, black, grey. We also had different sources. We had sea salts and mineral deposits salts. In addition to our gourmet salts, we tested plain table salt and sodium chloride reagents. We used about .1 to .15 gram dissolved in 50 mL water with 2% nitric acid. And then we conducted ICP-MS within our SPEX CertiPrep certified reference material and standards on calibration.
This is a chart of the different salt types that we did study. We have Cyprus black salt, Mediterranean sea salt, dark grey, very very large crystal. We have very small flakes from the pink salt from Australia. So there are some river salts and sea salts. For mineral deposits, we have the brown salt, which is a fine powder from India. We have a French chardonnay oak smoked salt which is a sea salt that was just smoked in an oak barrel with wine. And they had some very wet crystals that we looked at.
If we look at some of the macronutrients, there was a wide range of different macronutrients we found in the salt. Now, if you start to look up the benefits of sea salt or the benefits of gourmet salt, salt purveyors will tell you that these gourmet salts are unrefined salts that are good for you because they contain almost every element on the periodic chart. That may be true, but we did find a large variation between just these beneficial nutrients such as magnesium. We have found a low response of 35 mg/kg to over 8,000 mg/kg. So we have a large variation, but with no real consistency on any of these particular macronutrients.
Now, if we look at some of the toxic metals that we’ve found in gourmet salt, we found that, first in cadmium, there wasn’t cadmium found present in – I would say a majority in our samples. There were a few small samples that we were able to detect a small amount of cadmium such as this black salt, this pink crystal salt and this grey salt. There was actually even a little bit in our table salt. But most of the other salts, we were not able to detect any cadmium.
If we look at the lead though, every sample in our study had small to somewhat a significant amount of lead in it. The samples that actually did have a large amount of lead again were the colored salts, the black flake sea salt, this grey salt, the pink Himalayan salt again and this grey smoked salt.
Mercury, we found in most of our sea salt samples or most of our gourmet salt samples. Again, the colored salt seems to have the presence of Mercury where again, this black flake salt had a level of mercury with this red crystal salt, another black Hawaiian salt. Our table salt and our reagent did not have any mercury in it.
And with arsenic, we are happy to say we are unable to detect arsenic in any of our samples, except for these two here, this Indian brown mineral salt and this Australian crystal pink. And even then, it’s a very very small amount.
Also with Thallium, we have it in almost every sample, a small to a significant amount of Thallium in our samples here. If we just look at the more higher values, you can see that some of our salt samples actually did not exceed any high values of any particular toxic metal, and these happened to be the white crystal salt, this Mediterranean white crystal salt, this Israeli white salt. There’s one or two pink salts, so that did not have any significant toxic metals in them as well. The ones that did have several large quantities of toxic always seem to be these colored salts. The black salts, the grey salts.
If we look at our elements of concern and look at the range of response we got for them, for arsenic we have a low and didn’t detect any at all to a small amount of .1 µg/g. The same with the cadmium, we had about the same response. The most concern of this whole table is the mercury and the lead. Some of our samples didn’t have any mercury in it but on the highest, we had .18 µg/g and for lead, we had lowest response of .4 µg/g and a highest response of 1.3 µg/g.
So what does that mean in real numbers? Well, a gram of salt is about 1/6 of a teaspoon. So if you consider an average daily serving of these salts could be from half a teaspoon to a teaspoon a day, you’re talking about 3 to 6 grams of this material.
And why should we be concerned about these toxic metals? Well, cadmium, lead and mercury can cause toxicity at very low concentration. Lead is a cumulative poison that can build in your tissues and cause cancer and reproductive toxicity. Cadmium can cause joint pain, high blood pressure, kidney and liver damage. Arsenic can cause skin cancer and liver and kidney failure. Mercury, which is considered to be the most toxic of the heavy metals, can cause tiredness, loss of appetite and brain damage.
So how much are we allowed? Now, these calculations are for an average adult. The calculations for children would be based on their weight. For a 6 gram daily serving, which is about one teaspoon of salt, the highest varieties we found, you wouldn’t receive about .6 µg of Arsenic. The allowable daily limit for Arsenic is about 130 µg, so in this one serving you would have half of the percentage or the same level. For Cadmium again, we have about.6 µg in that 6 gram serving. Your allowable daily limit is 55 µg. So you would have a little bit more, you’d have maybe 1 or quarter percent of your allowable daily limit. Again, as long as you’re careful with your diet, that’s probably not too big of a deal. The problem comes in when we start looking at the mercury allowed levels. The highest mercury sample we found in a 6 gram sample, about 1.1 µg. Your allowable daily limit is only 8 for mercury. So, you’ll be having, in just a little bit of salt, you would have about 12% of your allowable daily limit just from that salt you put on your fish or your chicken. For lead, also, we found in our highest concentrations at 8 µg with an allowable daily limit of 50 µg, you would get about 16% of your allowable daily limit from that salt.


SPEX CertIPrep analyzed a variety of gourmet foods to discover whether or not they contained hazardous levels of toxic metals. We analyzed Fish, Gourmet Salt, and Chocolate. This webinar was recorded on 6/24/09. Part 3