The Jerusalem Post
Powdered soup, yellow cheese: Healthy or harmful?
The Health Ministry was rapped at the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee for allegedly backtracking on proposed regulations, and for intending to allow much more sodium to be included in soup powders before they are labeled unhealthful. The committee will vote to decide the issue on Wednesday.
Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov – an economist, not a physician – told the committee on Monday that he favors a change in the amount of sodium in liquid food requiring a red (not healthful) marking, from 100 mg. of salt in 100 ml. of liquid food to 400 mg. in 100 ml. Bar Siman Tov said the ministry and the committee will hold consultations on the matter before a vote is held.
“What brought you to raise the quantity? Did lobbyists talk to you?” asked Zionist Union MK Yael Cohen Paran. Kulanu MK Merav Ben-Ari intervened: “We are not influenced by lobbyists,” she declared.
Ben-Ari, Likud MK Avraham Neguise and committee chairman Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) said they met with representatives of the Tnuva food processing company. “It’s time we realized that what we ate for decades is unhealthful, and that we will tell the public that there are other sources of calcium,” said Cohen Paran regarding yellow cheese.
In the course of the heated discussion on the ministry’s request to exempt soup powders from red labeling but to require such labels on yellow cheese, Alalouf made it clear that in the coming days he would consult with Bar Siman Tov and recommend a decision to the committee members.
“Soup powders are made from a lot of sodium and sugar,” said Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria. “Why is ketchup not exempt from a red marking? In labeling, we will only raise parents’ awareness and not forbid consumption. We are making a profound change in the food consumption of our children.”
Dr. Hagai Levin, secretary-general of the Public Health Physicians Association, noted: “There are many more healthful [foods] than yellow cheese, but... because it has a strong lobby, it will be exempt from labeling.”
Sarit Atia, a dietitian at the Dairy Council, said: “I am worried what will be in children’s sandwiches at school, because about 80% of Israeli children do not consume enough calcium. If children’s calcium consumption is reduced because mothers refuse to buy yellow cheese, we will see the effect in a decade.”
Tnuva’s chief scientist, Zeev Pikovsky, added: “Yellow cheese also contains components like protein and calcium and vitamins and minerals that are naturally included in the product naturally.”
Levin, together with Dr. Dorit Adler of the Israeli Forum on Sustainable Nutrition, called for there to be no exemption from labeling for sodium-rich seasoning. However, Bar Siman Tov replied that soup powders are usually used sparingly and that their effects on sodium levels in the body are negligible.
As for baby foods, Bar Siman Tov explained that the ministry wants compounds intended for infants over the age of one year to be required to list the amount of sugar, but to exempt labeling of foods intended for infants up to one year of age, since this is their only food if they are not breastfed (or if their parents do not make such foods from natural ingredients).