Tag Archives: health

Regulation of the Day 125: Salt

Having eliminated all crime from New York’s streets, ended homelessness, rebuilt Ground Zero, and fixed the state’s ailing public schools, New York’s state legislature has set its sights on how much salt you eat.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg already has a plan to reduce NYC residents’ salt intake by 25 percent over five years. But State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) thinks that doesn’t go nearly far enough. It only covers New York City, for starters. The rest of the state’s salt intake would remain perilously unregulated under the Bloomberg plan.

That’s why Mr. Ortiz has introduced statewide legislation that would “make it illegal for restaurants to use salt in the preparation of food. Period.

A $1,000 fine would accompany each violation.

Tom Colicchio, who owns a restaurant and has appeared on the television show Top Chef, is livid. He told the New York Daily News that “New York City is considered the restaurant capital of the world. If they banned salt, nobody would come here anymore… Anybody who wants to taste food with no salt, go to a hospital and taste that.”

He’s right; the salt ban does offend culinary decency. But there’s another angle that’s at least as important: personal responsibility.
If I want to pile on the salt, as Mayor Bloomberg famously does, that’s my right. But I also need to be liable for the consequences. If chronic salt over-consumption gives me high blood pressure and heart trouble, that’s my fault. I should pay the cost.

But that’s not how the current health care system works. We suffer from the 12-cent problem: on average, people only pay 12 cents for every dollar of health care they consume. Roughly 50 cents are picked up by the government, and insurers cover the rest.
That means people have less incentive to watch what they eat than under a more honest system. Why not rack up huge health care bills? Everyone else is paying for me. Health care on sale! 88 percent off!

Freedom cannot exist without responsibility. Decades of government encroachments in health care have taken away a lot of our responsibility for health care decisions. So it makes some sense that Mr. Ortiz would finish the job by taking away peoples’ freedom to eat what they want.

A better solution would be to have both freedom and responsibility, instead of neither. Ban the salt ban. Give people more control over their health care dollars. Let us be free. Let us be responsible. We’re all adults here. Treat us as such, Mr. Ortiz.

Regulation of the Day 117: Hot Dogs

Hot dogs are delicious. Especially if you don’t think too hard about what they’re made of. Kids love them. So do adults. With baseball’s spring training already underway, consumption of the national pastime’s unofficial food is set to skyrocket in the coming months.

All is not sunshine, happiness, and home runs, though. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention thinks that hot dogs are dangerous, calling them a “high-risk food.” They are a choking hazard for children.

“We know what shape, sizes and consistencies pose the greatest risk for choking in children and whenever possible food manufacturers should design foods to avoid those characteristics, or redesign existing foods when possible, to change those characteristics to reduce the choking risk,” said Dr. Gary Smith… “Any food that has a cylindrical or round shape poses a risk,” he pointed out.

Dr. Smith also wants mandatory warning label regulations for all hot dog packaging. But nobody seems to be asking: Just how big is the risk here?

According to WebMD, 66 to 77 children under 10 die every year from choking on food in the U.S. That’s out of more than 42,000,000 children under 10, according to my calculations from U.S. Census data.

That means your child’s odds of choking to death on food are about 1 in 545,000. And that’s assuming 77 deaths, the high end of the range. Little Timmy is literally more likely to be struck by lightning (1 in 500,000) than choke to death on a hot dog.

That’s the level of threat we’re dealing with. Treat it that way.

Our children face far greater threats than mere hot dogs. Instead of advocating hot dog safety regulations of dubious benefit, the AAP should rethink its priorities. They should focus on where they can do the most good, instead of where they can do the most nothing.