Thursday, September 11, 2008

Low salt levels in ham and bacon risk botulism

Salty ham and bacon are keeping us healthy, according to meat firms protesting new salt-reduction targets. Meat manufacturers have rejected calls to cut salt levels in processed meats, claiming salt is used to prevent the deadly food bug botulism. The Food Standards Agency has called for salt content to be reduced to 2.13g per 100g by 2010 and to 1.75g by 2012. It suggested last month that 14,000 premature deaths a year could be avoided if adults reduced salt intake to just 6g a day. The current average is 8.6g per day, down from 9.5g in 2001.

But ham and bacon processors say the move will reduce the shelf life of products, and put customers off. A 10-slice packet of ham contains just under two teaspoons of salt. Claire Cheney, director-general of the Provision Trade Federation, representing leading processed meats companies and supermarkets said the targets were a potential health risk. She told The Grocer magazine: 'If you have not got sufficient preservative in a product like ham you get pockets where the salt levels are too low to prevent the formation of the botulism toxin. 'This will force us to reduce the shelf life further and with that come serious food safety concerns, not least the risk of botulism.'

She was backed by Elizabeth Andoh-Kesson, technical manager of the British Meat Processors Association. She said: 'We are very worried about the stricter targets and believe that reducing salt further has implications for food safety and the shelf life of products.'

Health campaigners have urged the FSA to stand firm, and resist pressure from the meat industry which is reluctant to change its manufacturing practices. Trade associations, including the 5billion pounds a year sandwich industry, complained consumers would find the taste of their products too bland without salt.


Tips for living to 100

Utter crap based on epidemiological speculation but with no support from the double-blind studies.

FROM the mythical fountain of youth to cryogenics, throughout history mankind has sought the secret to eternal life. Advances in medical science are helping us live longer, though not necessarily healthier. Author Dr Trisha Macnair may not have stumbled on the fabled fountain but she can help you live a longer life. The solution, Macnair says, is as simple as washing your hands or brushing your teeth. In her new book, The Long Life Equation, she lists activities that either add years to your life or strip them away. Washing your hands adds two years, and good dental hygiene will see you live six years longer.

Simple everyday activities can also lead to an early demise. For example, if you smoke, eat fast food, do not exercise and lead a stressful life, you'll be in your grave 20 years earlier. "There's no doubt younger people take life and health for granted - more than any generation before, they idle time away watching TV or playing computer games, ignoring the activities that keep them healthy or develop meaning in their lives," Macnair says.

"As we get older and start to feel the years slipping away, we suddenly realise how precious it is. "But by then we may have already established habits (smoking, drinking, obesity, lack of exercise, stressful occupations) which take their toll and are difficult to reverse. "Still, it's never too late to change. Also, our attitudes to older age are changing so there is more freedom now to do things later in life if we are healthy and able."

If you were unlucky enough to be born during the Bronze Age, your life expectancy was only 18 years. Fast-forward to the early 20th century and the worldwide average was 30 to 40 years. The current world average is 66, but in Australia that average is 77 for men and 82 for women.

We may be living longer but are we living better? The idea for The Long Life Equation came during time Macnair spent working with the elderly in a rehabilitation hospital. "Working with the elderly has made me very aware of the changes that we experience as we get older, how this can reduce quality of life and how many people regret not doing more when they were younger to stay healthy for longer," she says.


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