NEJM | Government's Role in Protecting Health and Safety By Sandeep Kishore Moderator | 20 May, 2013

From Tom Frieden, director of US CDC


What is the appropriate role of governmental public health action? Law and
public opinion recognize protection of health and safety as a core
government function, but public health actions are sometimes characterized
as inappropriately intrusive. Such criticism has a long history, but today
we accept many public health measures that were once considered misguided,
intrusive, or controversial. Public health initiatives include efforts to
promote free and open information to facilitate informed decision making,
protect individuals from being harmed by other individuals and groups, and
facilitate societal action to promote and protect health...



Katharine Jenner Replied at 12:42 PM, 20 May 2013

Thanks for sharing this interesting article Sandeep.

We have had similar 'health and safety', or rather 'health vs safety' discussions about salt in the past with our Food Standards Agency: namely that the UK government had an agency to protect against food poisoning (which kills under 500 people a year), yet no one to protect against the many thousands of deaths attributed to an excess of salt in our food. This argument was recognised in the UK, not just for salt but now for sugar and sat fat, and seems to be gaining traction in the EU, with a recent report stating:

"An aspect of food safety, although often not considered under food safety aspects, is food nutritional quality, e.g. the risk for consumers posed by too salty food products or too fat products. In this respect food industry is taking more responsibility and more and more food products with diminished level of added salt appear on the market. It is unquestionable that there are chain aspects in the management of nutritional value of products."

I think ignoring long term over-nutrition issues can be just as hazardous to individuals as not taking action on smoking, seat belts, micro-nutrient fortification etc and that governments should recognise this as their responsibility too. I would be interested in your views.