Monday, March 1, 2010

Links on health and nutrition

Improving water sources and getting people to use chlorine is harder than you might think. The .Plan quotes a gated source I can't follow on how attempts to clean the water at the source in Busia [Kenya or Uganda?? It's a line-straddling town] failed because the containers used to transport it and the utensils at home were contaminated. They handed out chlorine packets, but very few people used them. Finally they have tried putting a dispenser in a central location which has two main benefits that seem to be improving things: 1) it reduces the cost of the intervention greatly; 2) it's creating a social norm - as people observe others using it, they are more likely to. Water quality appears to be up. A success for now.

Salt and appetite: The research on the effects of salt on our health may be less clear cut than we have been led to believe. The NY Times article mentions that salt consumption hasn't increased substantively with incomes over 20-30 years despite the higher salt content of food. The article also lists many failed health interventions that seem to keep making us fatter. Best quote: "I’m just guided by a personal rule: Never bet against the expansion of Americans’ waistlines, especially not when public health experts get involved." Another hat tip for: The .Plan.

On why third party food safety audits are never enough: Barf Blog, whose motto and definition of food safety is "food that doesn't make you barf." Consumers like 3rd party audits and claim to be willing to pay up to 30 percent more for the reassurance. Actual purchasing decisions show a much lower valuation for them and there are enough cases where the third party is either not real or where announced inspections are gamed to make their value much lower. Best quote: “The contributions of third-party audits to food safety is the same as the contribution of mail-order diploma mills to education.” An apt analogy. The blog also has a video demonstrating what food safety inspectors look for every 6 months and several articles on attempts to make restaurant food safety knowledge more widespread.

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