Protect us from BSE but not High Blood Pressure

21 Jan

As Americans how do we decide how much we want to be regulated? From where I stand there is no consensus on this topic. I started thinking about this as people continue to discuss the new initiative to decrease the amount of salt in food in NYC by 25% over the next five years.

First of all, New York has already banned trans-fats and requires restaurants to post the number of calories in each item. So, those two steps are okay, but salt is taking it a step too far?

Our food is regulated. Everything is or is supposed to be inspected by a government agency. The best time to see how carefully our food is tracked is when there is a recall. If there is a beef recall the contaminated beef can be traced back to the processing plant, the slaughter house and we can even figure out which individual cows the contaminated meat came from. And it’s not just meat. When there was the contaminated peanut scare last summer we could figure out exactly what was causing the illness and where it came from.

So, Americans are okay with regulation. They want the fields, feedlots, farms, factories, slaughterhouses, processing plants and restaurants inspected, but they don’t want their food to contain a reasonable amount of salt? First I want to know if the people that are against this rule understand the impact of a high sodium diet and where in their diet the sodium is coming from. And secondly, I want to know if these people take responsibility for themselves in other aspects of their lives. We claim that we want to make our own choices but the people sue the tobacco companies for producing a deadly product.

Maybe it’s not clear that sodium is just as dangerous as the chemicals in cigarettes. Maybe as Americans we have not reached a consensus on what parts of our live we believe should be regulated. Maybe it’s a lack of information about the dangers of sodium or how important it is to eat a healthy diet. And where do these people fall on the lack of regulation on GMO crops, European nations don’t allow them because we don’t know enough about the repercussions of growing and consuming these crops, but the US allows them and Americans continue to eat them. I don’t think I can give a concrete answer.

I believe that Americans should take responsibility for their own actions. However, I understand that when individuals choose not to take responsibility they impact the rest of us. Obesity and heart disease are issues that impact all Americans not just those that are fighting these diseases.  If we don’t allow mammals to be fed animal by-products, because it could cause BSE and possibly translate CJD then why should we stop a law that would cap sodium intake? The odds of someone getting CJD is a million times lower than having high blood pressure from a diet that contains an excess of sodium. We have accepted sodium induced disease as part of our lives, but CJD and BSE are so scary that we are okay with regulating against those. Should the disease that impacts the most people be the one that our government protects us against?

1 Comment

Posted by on January 21, 2010 in food


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One response to “Protect us from BSE but not High Blood Pressure

  1. aaanimals

    January 25, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    In today’s Personal Health column, Jane Brody explores the science behind New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to curb sodium intake. She writes:

    The researchers calculated that the half-teaspoon reduction would “reduce the annual number of new cases of coronary heart disease by 60,000 to 120,000, stroke by 32,000 to 66,000, and myocardial infarction [heart attack] by 54,000 to 99,000, and reduce the annual number of deaths from any cause by 44,000 to 92,000.”

    That, dear reader, would be a very big bang for a relatively small buck. The researchers’ suggested salt reduction would hardly render food tasteless, especially if the reduction is done gradually, as Mr. Bloomberg has proposed. Currently, the average American man consumes 10.4 grams of salt a day, and the average American woman consumes 7.3 grams.


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