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Am I the only one worried about the safety of sea salt?

Below are some facts I found through the Smithsonian on the health of oceans after news of Fukushima radiation leaks into the Pacific had me putting my sea salt back in the cupboard and reaching for the Morton's. Am I being ridiculous in thinking that the sea salt craze may need to be reconsidered? I did a quick Google search on the safety of sea salt and came up empty handed. Is there a scientist out there with some input?

Oil spills account for only about five percent of the oil entering the oceans.

Waters sewage treatment plants discharge twice as much oil each year as tanker spills.

Each year industrial, household cleaning, gardening, and automotive products pollute water.

It is estimated that medical waste that washed up onto Long Island and New Jersey beaches in the summer of 1988 cost as much as $3 billion in lost revenue from tourism and recreation.

The most frequently found item in beach cleanups is pieces of plastic. The next four items are plastic foam, plastic utensils, pieces of glass and cigarette butts.

Air pollution is responsible for almost one-third of the toxic contaminants and nutrients that enter coastal areas and oceans.

In 1993, United States beaches were closed or swimmers advised not to get in the water over 2,400 times because of sewage contamination.

There are 109 countries with coral reefs. Reefs in 90 of them are being damaged by cruise ship anchors and sewage.

**I should add that I understand the impossibility of reducing chemical interference in one's life to zero. I'm just saying that recently sea salt's been giving me the heebie-jeebies.

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  1. Any reason why sea salt would suddenly terrify you, but fish gets a pass? If it does, of course.

    6 Replies
    1. re: small h

      I detest them. The idea that it's suggested not to eat fish if it smells like fish is enough of a reason for me to pass.

      1. re: foodworthy

        I am not familiar with this rule about not eating fish if it smells like fish. All fish smells like fish to me (it certainly doesn't smell like honeysuckle). So, sorry to go a little off topic on you, but where did you hear this?

        1. re: small h

          i think foodworthy is referring to the rule that if raw/uncooked fish smells overpoweringly "fishy" as opposed to briny or ocean-y, it's most likely not very fresh.

          1. re: small h

            Fresh fish smells - fresh. Like cucumbers or sea air. Fish that smells fishy is old and not good to cook or eat.

            1. re: chicgail

              Since I'm too lazy to retype the thought, this is lifted from an earlier post:

              "I think the TV chef aphorism about the smell of fish can be misleading. I mean, if the ocean really smelled like the creatures I extract from it, I assure you I would not revel in the surf half the days of the year. I agree with many that not all fish smells the same, but let’s be honest, fish smells like fish.

              I acknowledge that fish smells like fish at the time I remove the hook. Fish smells like fish on ice on the trip back to the Inlet. Fish smells like fish while I am cleaning it and so do my hands and knife when I’m done. Fish smells like fish when I cook it. . . ."

              Oh, and so as to stay on the main point: I'm not afraid to dive under a wave, get a mouthful of sea water, or consume any of the sea salts I routinely use.

              1. re: MGZ

                Thank you. That was my point, exactly. The word "fishy" has acquired negative connotations, so now people insist that fish that smells "fishy" is bad. Fish that smells spoiled is bad, just like butter that smells spoiled is bad. But you don't hear anyone telling you not to eat butter that smells buttery.

                And if the day ever comes when I can't smell the difference between fish and cucumber, I will sadly conclude that I've completely lost my olfactory sense.

      2. So use the Morton's. There's no health benefit to using sea salt and if stresses you out then don't use it.

        1. Well salt kills cooties so you don't have to worry about that.

          Of all the things to be concerned about this has to rank among the weirdest. Salt has to come from somewhere, if not from the sea then from a salt mine ... you are betting the salt mine is cleaner than sea water? How do you know that? The salt mine could be located next to the local dump.

          The ocean is a big place, pollution is diluted to minute amounts, is that true of a salt mine?

          I use the generic table salt myself, but whatever the source I use I would not worry about it ... because it is salt.

          1. The ocean has a cleaning mechanism in place for just about everything. It's only when it can't clean itself quickly enough that things become an issue. So far, none of the above are big issues.

            As for radiation, it really frustrates me that people forgot that we (U.S.) blew up a bunch of bombs in our backyard (New Mexico), releasing a whole lotta radiation that didn't wipe us out or affect anyone distant... Well, there is the whole thing about our teeth being more radioactive, but that's not an issue. As for water and stuff, I recall the French detonating some big ones near Australian waters in the 90s.

            8 Replies
            1. re: ediblover

              usa nuclear tests...1054 tests
              russia 715 tests
              france 210 tests
              united kingdom 45 tests
              china 45 tests
              india 6 tests
              pakistan 6 tests
              north korea 2 tests...

              those were a mix of above ground,underground and ocean tests...
              if u really want to worry....

              and yea the french created godzilla with their tests

              1. re: ediblover

                utah's still radioactive from those bombs.

                1. re: Chowrin

                  so is nevada

                  and whats left of bikini atoll

                  1. re: Chowrin

                    Morton's has salt mines in Utah. So you'd better put it back in the cupboard and use Accent instead.

                    1. re: C. Hamster

                      ha. salt and accent are totally different flavors

                      1. re: C. Hamster

                        Accent is just a meat tenderizer isn't it?Oh well I am going to need some Accent if I don't stop rinsing the blood of meat.I can't help myself the blood is gross.

                        1. re: Smiley881

                          My tongue was firmly planted in my furry little cheek with the Accent comment...

                          1. re: Smiley881

                            No, Accent is just plain MSG, a flavor enhancer. You are probably thinking of Adolph's Meat Tenderizer. That is an enzyme extracted from pineapples (bromelain) which breaks down proteins.

                    2. Is there any scientific evidence out there, perhaps that when the water evaporates that most of the toxins and pollution evaporate with it? Otherwise I would think it would be concentrated into the salt.

                      The ocean may have a cleaning mechanism, but I don't think that mechanism was prepared for the pollution that humans have dumped into it in the last century or two.

                      1. Are you afraid to swim in the ocean too?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: la2tokyo

                          We should be, especially in LA with pollution. Also, when it rains we dump raw sewage into the ocean. Who wouldn't love to swim in that?

                        2. Also fish have been going potty in the ocean for hundreds ... nay, thousands of years ... I'm sure it has accumulated quite a bit, there are literally TONS of it in the ocean. Yet people eat sushi, raw fish that has been swimming in its own filth, without a care in the world. Think about it, the fish go potty in the ocean, the fish drink the water in the ocean, you eat the fish ... does that make any sense? Have you ever seen an aquarium that hasn't been cleaned in a couple of months? Multiply that by a thousand years ....

                          1 Reply
                          1. OK, if I understand you, you stopped using sea salt after the radiation leaks in the ocean took place. Why? The sea salt you have is certainly not contaminated with radiation. And, aren't you assuming that your sea salt is obtained from the Pacific Ocean? Mine is obtained in Italy. I suppose I should be worried about the contaminants in the Mediterranean Sea? Maybe I should, since I understand it is quite contaminated.

                            I would be far more concerned about the recent finding of antibiotic resistant bacteria in our raw meat supply, than about the infinitesimal amounts of radiation you might receive in your salt.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sueatmo

                              Recent???? I recall reading about that in 1985.

                            2. "I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it.
                              W. C. Fields"

                              Then there is what the birds do over it, that falls in and what little boys and in fact all humans do in it, so what me worry?

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Quine

                                Bowdler would be proud.

                                W C Fields: "Fish **** in it."

                                1. re: therealdoctorlew

                                  Just ONE letter of the four asterisks would save a trip to The Google ;-)

                                  1. re: smartie

                                    they do, but that's not the commonly-used quote.

                                  1. My wife was reading an article about sea salt (in the NYTimes I think) and suddenly asked, "Isn't all salt sea salt?" She has a point. Isn't mined salt deposited from prehistoric seas?

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: DonShirer

                                      I recently saw "Ancient Sea Salt" for sale in the expensive salt section. The fine print on the label said it was mined from an ancient sea deposit. Duh!

                                      1. re: therealdoctorlew

                                        +99 for this. Correct me if I'm wrong, but sea salt is from current seas or mines that once were seas.

                                      1. All salt is sea salt at the end of the day.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: roxlet

                                          That right all the salt on land is supposed to have come from bits of the sea that evaporated. Of course, all the salt in the sea is supposed to have come from deposits on the land that were dissolved in water and washed in..................

                                        2. watching Roger Mookie from Everyday Exotic contaminate his bowl of salt by flipping pork after pounding it out. he salts then lifts with his hands the raw pork flips it over goes back to salt bowl then flips again and back to salt bowl again.
                                          can't find the thread that talks about contaminating salt, please forgive me if this is wrong place/thread and direct me (if you please) to correct thread. I'd doi it myself but I'm late for Dr. appointment.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                            I think the cooking is going to take care of the bacteria if the salt doesn't first. People have used salt to cure foods for thousands of years and it is probably a reason why seafood doesn't taste like fish poop. The salt in the sea, I'm sure, is a natural deterrent to bacteria growth in the sea.

                                            1. re: stevenbshelton

                                              last time I had some, freshwater fish doesn't taste like fish poop, either. Dilution, gravity, etc., etc., etc.

                                          2. I worry about people who worry about the safety of sea salt.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. I suggest for some reasonable authority on this topic of Sea Salt, mined salt, etc. we turn to someone who is versed in it.

                                              Really people; that is a lot of freaking out over issues in the ocean that you only have a tiny, eensy bit of info about. Sure fish poop in the ocean - comparing it to an aquarium is so lame; an aquarium is a closed, finite system without all the washing/exchange/ organic processess that has made it a miracle of life on earth for millenia. We poor humans HAVE to clean aquariums because we are dealing with a tiny miniscule version of the real thing....
                                              I doubt any decent sea salt farm is near a large city's polution - either by air or by sea, and most of the salt UNDER the earth has been there far longer than since when human's started really messing with our environment and so those deposits are not contaminated.

                                              Mark Bittermans 'Salted - A Manifesto on the world's most essential mineral, with recipes" is a great book with alot of solid, researched information about sea salt, and mined salts, and evaporation methods of harvesting salt.

                                              Check out this link to his shop in PDX, and the book. http://www.atthemeadow.com/shop/index...

                                              I checked it out of my local library, and learned alot. Won't ever be using the ol' Morton's again.

                                              Let's get some informed information going in this thread, and then we can really discuss salts.

                                              12 Replies
                                              1. re: gingershelley

                                                gingershelley, I don't think you're right to "doubt any decent sea salt farm is near a large city's polution" ... Cargill produces salt in the San Francisco Bay -- in the middle of one of the country's largest metropolitan areas. But the salt intended for human consumption does go through a refining process.

                                                See http://www.cargill.com/corporate-resp...

                                                1. re: drongo

                                                  Any Salt made by Cargill is NOT the kind of 'salt farm' that people should be consuming. A tiny percentage of that might get turned into iodized people salt, but most of that industrial salt is for commercial and industrial use - salting roads, chemical manufacture, etc.

                                                  I was reffering to salt farming of the kind done in Hawaii, Britanny sea salt (fleur de sel), etc. those are decidedly NOT industrial in nature, nor done near a large city.

                                                  1. re: gingershelley

                                                    Maybe we shouldn't be consuming Cargill salt, but many do! All Diamond Crystal Sea Salt is produced by Cargill in the San Francisco Bay. (OTOH, Cargill makes Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt in Michigan.)

                                                    1. re: drongo

                                                      Glad I don't use Diamond salt! I am down on Cargill in general.

                                                      Confess I do use Morton kosher salt for any larger applications of salt, like brining, salt-roasting oysters, salmon or beef roast. I think I better look into where THAT is being procured!

                                                      1. re: gingershelley

                                                        Morton also has a production site in the San Francisco Bay. But I don't know where their kosher salt is produced. I suspect it's in the Midwest.

                                                2. re: gingershelley

                                                  Great post gingershelley, really informative - thanks for the book suggestion, I'll check it out at my local library!

                                                  1. re: ashleighDC

                                                    Thank you Ashleigh, I really enjoyed the book, and feel far more informed about salts!

                                                  2. re: gingershelley

                                                    Thanks for the book recommendation! I will have to check it out!

                                                    1. re: gingershelley

                                                      Frankly, a course in general chemistry is needed.

                                                      If you actually believe that human beings are responsible for all harmful acts, consider the fact that the nuclear explosions were going on before recorded history. Nature-made fires and volcanic eruptions cause plenty of pollution.

                                                      As for the whole thing that started this... If you're that concerned about radiation, you need to stop eating bananas and will have to get your teeth pulled out. Don't even get me started on the glow-in-the-dark edible nuts.

                                                      1. re: ediblover

                                                        Also, it seems that radioactive potassium helps a lot with lowering artery clogging plaque. So let's all eat everything, everything in moderation. My house for oxtails, fried banana, and collards! With mined salt. Or fish sauce, your preference.

                                                        1. re: Teague

                                                          and do not forget Mined Salt was Sea Salt!

                                                          1. re: chefj

                                                            A World History.
                                                            Hardback, Walker, 2002.
                                                            Paperback 2003.
                                                            Mark Kurlansky
                                                            (ISBN-13: 9780142001615)

                                                    2. There is certainly no danger of contamination of sea salt from the radiation leak, but I don't understand the attraction of sea salt anyway. I use Morton Coarse Kosher Salt for cooking. Salt is all the same, except for impurities. If I want something extra, I'd rather add it explicitly.

                                                      All salt may originate in the sea, but there are different processes. If salt is separated from brine by crystalization, impurities will be left behind in the brine. I don't think salt goes directly from a mine to the kitchen. Rock salt for roads, perhaps.


                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: GH1618

                                                        it's ground to size, of course -- but yes, there are plenty of salt mines around the world that mine it, grind it, and send it out. You can still visit the salt mines in Austria (and it's a blast to put on the goofy suits and slide down the wooden slides instead of taking the stairs) -- you ride into the mine on the small-gauge railroad used to haul the salt out of the mine. A couple of these are still commercially active.

                                                        It all depends on the purity of the deposit itself.

                                                        There are also the salt mines along the shores of the Mediterranean -- huge production - and while not IN a major population area, certainly not far away.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          Perhaps so, but I don't get my salt from "around the world." This is how it is produced in the US:

                                                          "Virtually all food grade salt sold or used in the United States is produced by vacuum evaporation of brine."


                                                          Here's a link to an interesting article on salt refining:


                                                          1. re: GH1618

                                                            but you didn't say anything at all restricting it to the US in your first post -- and while we're in the minority, there are a lot of us on this forum who buy our salt from around the world because we live around the world.

                                                            and "virtually all" means that there's some produced by other methods.

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              Your point about the international nature of this forum is well taken, but of course food standards and practices vary widely across national boundaries.

                                                              I took "virtually all" to exclude sea salt, which I don't use. I expect Morton Coarse Kosher Salt, which is what I use, and Morton table salt, to account for virtually all salt used in homes in the US. That's just a guess — I can't document it.

                                                      2. LIke any food products you consume, if you're that worried, make an effort to know where your food is coming from. I use Hawaiian salt that is made the old fashion way.

                                                        13 Replies
                                                        1. re: ORtastytravels

                                                          Is that the grey stuff with the volcanic ash?

                                                            1. re: small h

                                                              No, this Hawaiian salt is white flakes but can be made red by adding alaea. Here's an article about the salt I get from the island of Kauai's Salt Pond. I love the lore involved too!


                                                              Note that any other "Hawaiian Salt" that is bought from the stores are not authentic. It is manufactured salt. Authentic Hawaiian Salt that is hand harvested cannot be sold...EVER.

                                                                1. re: ORtastytravels

                                                                  <Authentic Hawaiian Salt that is hand harvested cannot be sold...EVER.>

                                                                  So you have to go there and pick some up? This is not practical for me. And the article you linked to notes that the salt can be traded. That's not so different from selling it.

                                                                  1. re: small h

                                                                    small h,
                                                                    Hand harvested pa‘akai cannot be sold. It can be gifted to you by those that still make it in the ancient way. Other types of "Hawaiian salt" can be bought but is manufactured.

                                                                    1. re: ORtastytravels

                                                                      Again, this quote, from the article you linked to: "The salt may be given or traded, but not sold."

                                                                      Given or traded. Traded is also an option. And I don't think anyone would bother "manufacturing" salt, when there's plenty of it lying around already.

                                                                    2. re: small h

                                                                      Sorry gang, but there is no difference between these salt pans and others around the world. It is just how the salt is processed. They are identicle to the ones in the Bahamas, only there they use bulldozers. And people and boats are banned from the initial lagoons, thus being a great nursery for fish and flamingos. As well as greatly decreasing human and petroleum contaniments.

                                                                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                        Have I given you the impression that I think Hawaiian salt is different than Bahamian salt? If so, let me clarify: I don't. Or maybe you replied to me by mistake?

                                                                        1. re: small h

                                                                          Sorry, didn't go to RTOP. Not here to rile anybody up.

                                                                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                            Don't worry about it. I'm always either riled up or on my way to being riled up or trying to rile down. It's not you, it's me. What does RTOP mean?

                                                                              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                                Thanks! Hadn't seen that one before.

                                                            2. I TOTALLY agree with you regarding the ewwww about "sea salt" - I would rather have the iodine fortified Mortons that the potential of contamination.
                                                              BTW - you can purchase a small geiger counter called a
                                                              "Pocket geiger type 2" on ebay for about 30$ It hooks up to your ipad - real easy to use. It was manufactured for the residents of Fukushima for as an affordable means of detecting radiation. I checked mine with one of those radioactive lantern mantles. The thing works. BTW I'll be checking the container of "ALL NATURAL SEA SALT" (my husband bought) for rad a and keep u posted.

                                                              1. Um - I guess you don't realize that we are are radioactive. Our nervous systems are based on potassium and potassium is radioactive. It is potassium radiation that keeps the core of the earth hot and melted. So I would't worry too much about the radioactivity from Japan. (The real story is that we have the ability to measure such tiny amounts of radiation.) Oh, most salt contains traces of potassium. As far as bugs go, salt pretty much kills them all. Meanwhile, the ocean has managed to process bugs and toxins for a billion years and, somehow, the fish manage to survive.

                                                                6 Replies
                                                                1. re: kagemusha49

                                                                  Only about one one-hundredth of one percent of naturally occuring potassium is radioactive, and the activity is too low to be of concern.


                                                                    1. re: kagemusha49

                                                                      Your point is still not clear to me. The OP was wondering (in part) whether radioactivity from the Fukushima incident is cause for concern about possible contamination of sea salt. This is a legitimate question, in my opinion. The release of radioactive isotopes was large enough to cause marine biologists to monitor the fisheries in the North Pacific to quantify the contamination. It is not unreasonable to wonder where sea salt comes from and what is in it.

                                                                      I'm not concerned about sea salt only because I don't use it. The only difference between ordinary salt and sea salt is that sea salt has more contaminates. I don't understand why anybody wants that.

                                                                      1. re: GH1618

                                                                        There is no danger of Fukushima contaminating sea salt. Apparently you are one of those people who lack a sense of humor and need things spelled out exactly.

                                                                        1. re: kagemusha49

                                                                          No, I have a highly refined sense of humor. I just don't think of this as a humor site, and I have no special knowledge of sea salt, as I don't use it and don't care about it. If you say sea salt is not susceptible to radioactive contamination, that's good enough for me.

                                                                          1. re: GH1618

                                                                            Sea salt is certainly susceptible to contamination. However there is essentially zero risk that the sea salt you buy has been contaminated by Fukushima or anything elses.

                                                                2. 100 more tons of radioactive water leaked into the ocean at Fukushima this past week, due to a valve failure in a holding tank. Reports say it was 7 million times more radioactive than what the Japanese government has allowed for ocean dumping from the plant.

                                                                  But it's a drop in the bucket compared to the contamination from all those Pacific bomb tests.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                    1. I like to see people eat farm raised salmon in sushi restaurants.

                                                                      I like to see people eating week old tuna in sushi rolls.

                                                                      I like to see people eating farm raised 'branzino' in fancy shmancy restaurants.

                                                                      I like my sea salt from the Mediterranean and my food hot!

                                                                      1. Thank you for writing this article. Sea salt is a clear and present danger. It is the distilled down concentrate of sea water. Any radionuclides present in the ocean water will be concentrated in the sea salt and will poison any food upon which it is used. Avoid sea salt at all costs because none of it states where it comes from. Much of it probably comes fro the Pacific which is a huge red flag. Do not eat Pacific fish anymore. They are contaminated. Eating Pacific fish is a death sentence.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                            1. I don't think you have any thing to worry about with Sea Salt.I am sure it goes through a purification process.However I did read a little something about how the salt looks before it is treated.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Smiley881

                                                                                Aside from the fact that you can't "purify" for radiation, someone's done the math:


                                                                                1. re: ferret

                                                                                  Thumbs-Up! Nothing like a good, healthy dose of scientific facts and figures to cut through the bullshit.

                                                                                2. re: Smiley881

                                                                                  This is not totally food related, although we did have coffee, but I recently went on one of those internet dates with a pretty interesting man who teaches at a land grant midwestern university - he teaches nuclear physics, and gave me a tour of the labs (best first date ever! by the way) INCLUDING THE NUCLEAR REACTOR. Emphasis because, the dude was totally freaked out by the radiation from cell phones, and had some kind of earphone workaround so his phone would not bathe his head in radiation. Ok, like I sort of think the damage was done, already, right?

                                                                                  Sorry, that was a bit of a segway, my point I guess is that salt is pretty much a mineral, and you get it by mining or evaporating. Fancy sea salt has more impurities. like delicious and difficult to come by Hawaiian seaweed and dead crustacean bits. Or other things like minerals. You can do some of this yourself by pounding your salt with interesting things like roasted seseme seed, kombu, cumin seed, and things you find in the yard.