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Conservative Fear April 20, 2010

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Government, Health Care, Science & Society, The Obama Administration.

Jason Arvak writes a post at The Moderate Voice entitled The Slide Down The Slippery Slope Begins. In it he argues that the concerns that conservatives professed about government interference in the tiny details of our private lives just might be justified because the FDA is thinking of proposing standards to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods. He ends his post with the line “But it is unclear why they are unwilling to allow the government into the bedroom but perfectly willing to shove it into our kitchen pantry.”. While he links to an article on the proposals in the Washington Post he does not mention why this proposal is being put forth. From the WP article:

Until now, the government has pushed the food industry to voluntarily reduce salt and tried to educate consumers about the dangers of excessive sodium. But in a study to be released Wednesday, an expert panel convened by the Institute of Medicine concludes that those measures have failed. The panel will recommend that the government take action, according to sources familiar with the findings.

He also doesn’t mention why this proposal is important. Back to the WP article with the emphasis being added by me.

A recent study by researchers at Columbia and Stanford universities and the University of California at San Francisco found that cutting salt intake by 3 grams a day could prevent tens of thousands of heart attacks, strokes and cases of heart disease.

Most salt eaten by Americans — 77 percent — comes from processed foods, making it difficult for consumers to limit salt to healthy levels, experts say.

“We can’t just rely on the individual to do something,” said Cheryl Anderson, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who served on the Institute of Medicine committee. “Food manufacturers have to reduce the amount of sodium in foods.”

Is there some conspiracy to enter our kitchens and confiscate our table salt? No. Is it at all likely that this is going to happen? Once again, no. In fact, the industry, with the exception of the Salt Institute, is working with the government and has been for a while and both groups recognize the problems inherent in the attempts to reach this goal as this bit shows.

Above all, government officials and food industry executives say, a product with reduced salt must still taste good, or it will flop in the marketplace, as evidenced by several low-sodium products that had abysmal sales.

“Historically, consumers have found low-sodium products haven’t been of the quality that’s expected,” said Todd Abraham, senior vice president of research and nutrition for Kraft Foods. “We’re all trying to maintain the delicious quality of the product but one that consumers recognize as healthier.”

So while it may be something that conspiracy theorists will love to seize upon as a weapon against the evils of Obamacare I just don’t think it’s very good ammo for them.



1. Mark - April 23, 2010

It’s interesting in that I thought one of the governments main jobs was to keep the general public safe. Isn’t that the point of having public services like police, fire etc?

How exactly is regulating the food industry in this way any different then having a health department? There are certainly lines to be drawn and yes, the same could probably be accomplished by simply making the salt levels more easily accessible on packaging….but I don’t see a large invasion here compared to what already goes on.

2. Jim Satterfield - April 23, 2010

Yes, the government does have a role to play in a situation like this. Just as the FDA is justified in keeping any amount of dangerous ingredients out of our food I would think it would follow that controlling the level of an ingredient that is detrimental to a significant portion of the population when used in excess is reasonable.

3. SteveK - April 28, 2010

Hello Jim,

You know Jason, he NEVER gives the complete story about anything… EVER!

Jason Steck’s (DBA Jason Avark) return to TMV came as quite a surprise… He was ushered out two years ago because of his habit censoring of comments and banning readers that bested him in an argument. He did made a few efforts to comment and debate as a ‘reader’ but without the ability to censor he failed terribly.

Jason is a partisan hack, always has been, always will be. His reappearance at The Moderate Voice after they shut down all reader comment speaks volumes of what TMV has chosen to become… And that is a shame.

PS – It’s good to see that you’re still at it.

4. Jim Satterfield - April 28, 2010

Ah, I didn’t know it was Steck coming back. That explains it. And he is nothing but a partisan.

5. Mark - May 7, 2010

It’s too bad too because this was a chance to have a realistic discussion about what the correct amount of government intrusion into our private lives is acceptable and in what form.

As with most issues, I can’t agree completely with one party or the other…for me the most reasonable solution lies somewhere in the middle, a place neither party wants to go.

6. j - May 16, 2010

Read the packages . You idiots kill me. If it has too much salt don’t eat. Be your owner parent.

7. Jim Satterfield - May 27, 2010

It’s not that simple, j. For numerous reasons the level of salt is a problem in the overwhelming majority of the type of packaged foods being discussed. It reaches the point to where there is in fact almost no real choice of items that have a low enough sodium level to be helpful. And guess what? If there is anything where the commerce clause applies, it’s to the large corporations that provide food in most of the country. Idiots are those who just don’t worry about these issues even a bit, not those who think some regulation if the companies won’t do something on their own, is justified.

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