Friday, April 23, 2010

"New" in Nutrition and Food Safety

Nestle is helping to leak information from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. She is happiest about the inclusion of goals to create a more health-friendly food environment. Most of the recommendations anyone could guess (more fruits and vegetables, less saturated fat, less salt). They particularly target reducing sugared soda consumption for reducing childhood obesity; 2 servings of fish per week give you all the omega-3 fatty acid needs (alt: 250-300 mg/day); and more potassium (hooray for bananas) to lower blood pressure.

In terms of reducing salt content, Wilde  discusses how to make that happen without relying solely on government regulation. The industry claim has been, roughly, "Y'know, we'd really like to reduce our salt content - we really would - but we can't because other companies wouldn't and consumers would buy their products instead of ours so we'd go out of business." It's framed as a coordination problem and that's one of the things governments are better at solving ... unless of course you'd like to give the companies license to collude? Didn't think so. Anyway, Wilde discusses one of the chapters from an Institute of Medicine report that consumers DO eat lower salt foods as well as higher salt, so the argument that consumers will flee is not solid. In particular, he points out the difference between "taste" and "flavor" - salt is a "taste" while adding "flavors" can "make less salty foods delightful." You can also alter how salty the foods taste "by modifying the size of salt particles and their placement on the surface of a food."

Nestle also warns that some of our food safety safeguards are getting a touch lax:
The FDA inspects less than 25 percent of food facilities each year, and that percent has been going down. Over half of food facilities have gone 5 or more years without an FDA inspection. Of those few facilities who were warned, FDA took action in fewer than half the cases and chose to do nothing the rest of the time.

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