Since peanut recalls started making headlines several months ago, food-borne illness prevention has been working its way up the list of America’s top safety priorities. Despite the fact that it is not a food-borne epidemic, the misnamed “swine flu” virus has heightened that sense of urgency – and accelerated government plans to overhaul the food inspection system. Unfortunately, as we’re telling Philadelphia Inquirer readers today, dietary interventions like this one are just the camel’s nose in the proverbial tent.
There’s a big difference between making sure peanuts aren’t laced with salmonella and forcing people to eat healthier. But as recent proposals to expand the trans fat ban and cut half the salt out of New Yorkers’ diets suggest, this is a concept that Big Apple health officials have yet to master:
Unless we’re talking about the hazards of a salmonella-spiked nut mix, consumers know that some food choices carry more incremental health risks than others. It doesn’t take a registered dietitian to point out the difference between a salad and a triple bacon cheeseburger.
And remember: There’s no such thing as "secondhand fat."
What there is, science shows, is a predictable formula for basic health and longevity: dietary moderation and regular exercise. But there’s no expert consensus about the effects of government measures such as soda taxes and salt bans.
Show me a study touting the health benefits of a low-sodium diet, and I’ll show you another concluding that it could actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems. For every Ph.D., it seems, there’s an equal and opposite Ph.D.
It is easy to point to pressing health problems, such as juvenile diabetes, heart disease, and food poisoning, and demand that everyone make way for government to rush to the rescue. But these complicated challenges require solutions that are more thoughtful than the hasty options currently on the table.
Rather than banning saturated fats, trans fats, salt, food dyes, corn syrup, canned tuna, or some other flavor-of-the-month food demon, health authorities should do everything they can to educate consumers about scientifically proven food-related risks to our health.
And then leave us alone.
Read the whole thing here.