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June 2012
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NANNIES Government meddling seems to know no end

There was a time a couple of generations ago when being a liberal meant you had a bumper sticker on your car saying, "Question authority." How times have changed. Today the liberal mantra seems to be: Do what the government tells you, even if it's none of their business.

Consider for instance the government's intrusion into the matter of how much salt can be in school kids' ketchup. A story in Friday's Paducah Sun reported the controversy that erupted when ketchup became unavailable on the lunch menus of the Anderson County schools due to new government regulations regarding salt. No, we're not making this up.

This year regulations began taking effect under the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which passed Congress in 2010. The law imposes all kinds of restrictions on school foods, regulating not just calories, but salt content as well. In Anderson County, the schools' food services staff fed all of their recipes into a government compliance tool that makes sure all of the meals meet the federal dictates.

To meet the requirements, the schools calculated all of the recipes assuming low-sodium ketchup packets would be part of the meals. Problem is, a lot of schools apparently did the same and there is a shortage of low-sodium ketchup. In fact, it has been out of stock at the Anderson County schools' supplier since the start of school.

Low sodium ketchup contains 10 calories and 25 mg of salt. Regular packets contain 11 calories and 85 mg of salt. As a point of reference, the U.S. Food and Drug administration recommends salt intake be limited to 2,300 mg a day. But to comply with the federal food police Anderson County could not substitute ketchup with an extra calorie and 60 mg more of salt until low-sodium formulations became available.

The irony is that there has been growing scientific evidence since the passage of the federal law that higher levels of salt are not bad for you and that low-salt diets are actually harmful.

In 2011 Scientific American published an article entitled "It's Time to End the War on Salt" that included the subtitle "The zealous drive by politicians to limit our salt intake has little basis in science." The article said a meta-analysis of seven studies involving 6,250 people found no strong evidence that reducing salt intake reduces risks of heart attack, stroke or death, and some evidence that lower salt intake correlates to a higher risk of death from heart disease.

And just this month The Wall Street Journal reported that "one of the most comprehensive studies yet suggested cutting back on sodium too much actually poses health hazards." Specifically, the study of more than 100,000 people from 17 countries found that people who consumed fewer than 3,000 mg of sodium a day had a 27 percent higher risk of death, heart attack or stroke than those who consumed 3,000-to-6000 mg. The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A 2013 report from the Institute of Medicine, which advises Congress on health issues, also found cutting salt intake below 2,300 mg did not reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.

So if the science flies in the face of the USDA standard and suggests adhering to it might actually be harmful, what business does the nanny state have in imposing it on school children? For that matter, what business does a Congress that can't even balance its checkbook have trying to run people's daily lives to this level of detail?

It's just one more reason voters should indeed question authority and push back against federal government efforts to meddle in places where it does not belong.

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