Monday, 7 May 2012

Unhealthy health regulations

By Chris Moerdyk
2012-05-07 07:14

I have to wonder about the obsessive nature of bureaucrats who so often start off really well developing laws and regulations that would be of immense benefit to the  nation and then they get onto a roll and just can’t seem to stop themselves from regulating and regulating as though there were no tomorrow.

Inevitably, they end up by creating laws that effectively kick the consumer in the teeth while trying to protect them consumer from dental decay.

Two months ago new regulations came into effect in South Africa spelling out what food advertising and labelling could and could not say.

Basically, it all looked pretty darn good. As someone who has this strange habit of wandering through shops overseas looking at how various brand promote themselves, I have for years now, believed that South African food labels have been way head of anywhere else in the world in terms of useful information. Especially as I am someone who has to watch my carbohydrate and sugar intake.

At first glance our new regulations looked great.

I was interested to see that the editor of a magazine called Health Intelligence that my wife and health conscious daughters-in-law now treat as some sort of oracle, agrees with me.

He pointed out that, for example, the regulations forbid any food labelling making a nutrition claim if such a claim applies to all foods in that class anyway.

Like saying that Brand X Olive Oil is "cholesterol free" because olive oil doesn't contain cholesterol anyway.

The new regulations make it compulsory to list allergens such as soya, dairy, eggs, nuts and shellfish among others.

Great regulations and in fact, I would have been happier if they had gone further and insisted on warning the population of this country against overindulgence of refined sugar - something that has effectively screwed up my life.

Anyway, let me get back to this obsession with bureaucrats not knowing when to stop and taking good health regulations and turning them into unhealthy regulations as well.

As Health Intelligence magazine rightly pointed out: "The regulations have gone too far in their noble intention to (protect) consumers from misleading claims, they have effectively banned truthful claims as well."

This means that consumers can no longer be informed about the health value of beneficial ingredients. In fact, the words "healthy" and "nutritious" are no longer permitted as a description of bona-fide nutritious and healthy ingredients.

I find it quite staggering that these new regulations effectively ban substantiated and truthful claims.

Even the Health Products Association says it is "disappointed that helpful information with regard to the relationship between certain foods and certain diseases such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular conditions and even cancer, have not been addressed in the regulations".

Seems crazy to me and is a typical example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Basically, it all boils down to taking away the consumer's right to choose.

Our government bureaucrats started off being wonderful guardians of our health and well being with these regulations, but have inadvertently turned out to be over-protective nannies that simply do not trust the "children" in their charge.

It seems such a pity that some bureaucrats just don’t know when to stop when they are on to a really good thing.

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