Consumers accept the fact that decaffeinated coffee costs more than regular coffee. They assume that decaffeinated coffee is made by putting regular coffee through an extra process that removes part of the caffeine, and it is logical that an extra process should add to the cost of the finished product.

However, the consumer who is on a low-salt or no-salt diet is constantly perplexed to find that unsalted foods cost more than the same foods with salt.

Peanuts are a classic example. A few days ago, a local chain store advertised 8-ounce jars of Planters salted peanuts for 99 cents. The same ad offered 8 1/4-ounce jars of unsalted Planters peanuts for $1.69.

Why is this? Why do Planters jars contain 8 1/4 ounces of unsalted peanuts but only 8 ounces of salted peanuts? How much does Planters save on peanuts that are not salted? If salted peanuts sell for 12.375 cents an ounce, why do unsalted peanuts cost 20.485 cents an ounce -- or 66 percent more? Why don't unsalted peanuts cost less than salted peanuts, rather than more? Would somebody at Standard Brands please explain?

Those who can eat salted foods without ill effects are seldom aware that millions of people are on low-salt or no-salt diets because they have high blood pressure.

Patients are often advised to buy salt-free milk, salt-free bread and many similar foods. They are astonished to learn what a large role salt plays in the average American's diet.

But once they become accustomed to doing without salt, they find it difficult to go back to even an occasional salted snack.

For example, I rarely eat lunch, but on days when I felt the need for a mid-day snack, a can of soup used to be one of my favorites. However, now that salt has been almost totally eliminated from my diet for three years, I can't abide most canned soups, or the over-salted soup in our company cafeteria. One doesn't realize how much salt is used in many common foods until he's been on a restricted diet for a while.

When survival depends on it, you learn to do without salt and to put up with the minor inconvenience of searching for stores that stock no-salt products. But paying 50 to 100 percent more for unsalted foods than for salted foods is just a big, fat pain in the neck.

As we used to say before the Carters came to town: That ain't peanuts, pal.

What's the justification for this kind of pricing?