A label with an exclamation point and "HIGH" coming to a food near you
This Washington Post story reveals a grand new scheme by the nation's largest physician's group about how they want to help control the rise in blood pressure and heart disease rates -- put "warning labels" on foods that contain, in their opinion, too much salt.
The delegates at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association voted earlier this week in favor of strongly requesting the U.S. government to force food companies to label any food they consider "high-salt," defined by them as 480mg or higher, to help consumers make better choices about how much salt they are consuming at restaurants and in the processed foods they purchase at the grocery store.
The overall goal is to cut the amount of salt consumption in half by 2016.
Here's a common sense question to ask: Why is this the role of the government? I keep bringing this question up (like those who want to make restaurants cut their portion sizes and calories) because it seems more and more people are wanting the government to do everything for them lately, including THINKING and making the right decisions. But people can learn exactly what they are eating by religiously reading the nutritional labels on the foods they buy at the supermarket and by visiting the nutritional page at their favorite restaurant's web site.
I'm no fan of salt myself, but it's absolutely absurd that a group like the AMA thinks the American people are too stupid to know what they are putting in their mouth that they think the government should MANDATE warning labels on our foods regarding salt because of health problems. But my question is where do the warning labels stop?
Sure, we can put the word "high" on the packaging with lots of red exclamation points to bring attention to the salt content in the foods we eat (one of the recommendations of the AMA, by the way), but what about other decidedly unhealthy ingredients found in foods -- like SUGAR?!
Oh, well wait just a minute there mister! Don't you know sugar is considered a "GRAS" food (no, not the kind of grass you would smoke and get high off of, although it sounds like the AMA board has been smoking something!)? GRAS is an acronymn for a food that is "generally recognized as safe" by the AMA. Guess what is on that list with salt and pepper? Yep, it's sugar!
And salt has been on that list for many years, but now the AMA geniuses want the FDA to revoke that position from salt because Americans are eating nearly 5000mg of it daily, or twice the recommended intake.
SO WHAT ABOUT SUGAR?!?!?!?! How much MORE is the public consuming of table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and all those other fancy names for sugar these days, all to the detriment of their health? Where are the warning labels on THAT, AMA?!
While I am not advocating putting warning labels on foods with "too much sugar" in them (like this extremist group is proposing for sugary soft drinks), what I am saying is that the AMA seems to be selectively deciding for Americans what is healthy for them and what is not. It's none of the government's business what people are putting in their mouths because it is their choice to do this to themselves and nobody else's.
Let's stop playing this cat and mouse game that people don't know how much salt and sugar they are eating in the foods they eat. I guarantee you most people don't give a flying rip about the nutritional content and would ignore warning labels anyway. That idea sure worked well for cigarettes, didn't it?
The evidence the AMA collected on the health impact of salt showed eating it in excess can raise your blood pressure and cause cardiovascular problems. But as my friend Regina Wilshire often reminds me, that is only for a small segment of the population who are considered "salt sensitive." Wouldn't you know it, I'm one of the lucky ones to have this condition. Yee haw! That's why I replace a lot of my salt intake with this excellent potassium-based product instead.
We've heard about what salt does to our health, but how about the "risk factors" for overconsuming sugar, AMA? Hmm, let's see, we've got obesity, insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, hyperactivity, blood sugar spikes...need I go on? If you want to talk about an ingredient found in the majority of foods today that is causing a lot of health problems, then look no further than the sugar that is pumped into so many foods with nary a peep out of the AMA. It'll scare you when you realize just how much this has infiltrated our food supply and the AMA remains silent. Very peculiar.
Where are the warnings about sugar leading to two out of every three Americans becoming overweight or obese? It makes that silly 30 percent with high blood pressure number pale in comparison, don't you think? The fact that 1 in 3 Americans is either diabetic or pre-diabetic right now should really be the focus of any group who claims to be an advocate for public health.
"Ultimately, substantial cooperation among the government, the food industry, physicians and the nutrition community will be required to accomplish meaningful change," the report concluded.
How about letting the market continue to work WITHOUT any intervention on the part of the government? Sure, doctors and nutritionists can have their say about what their patients should do, but it will ultimately come back to the patient making up his or her mind about what is best for their health. Leave the food industry alone because nobody is making people buy their products or visit their restaurants.
The AMA unfortunately has a great deal of influence over governmental agencies like the FDA. So don't be surprised if you're walking through the supermarket in 2007 and you see a whole bunch of "HIGH!!!" warning labels on foods. And we won't even talk about what the menu at a Chinese restaurants will look like. EEEEEEK!