Fri | Dec 9, 2016

The low-down on cup soups

Published:Wednesday | April 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The notion is that 'bad foods' are usually recalled from the trade. Consumers are expected to make the right choices when purchasing foods but these choices are usually driven by convenience and cost. I say this because I am concerned about dehydrated cup and noodle soups and I grab every opportunity to speak about how dangerous they are. I believe they should be banned.

My nightmare gets worse, as over the past week, I had the opportunity to make four presentations to parents and teachers and realised that this product is becoming a staple. I called some parents and children with whom I am acquainted with from various schools in Montego Bay and found out that in addition to purchasing cup soups from tuck shops, many children take them to school for breakfast, snack or lunch. As a dietitian, I gather information from many parents for the purpose of doing nutrition assessments, and I am finding that the use of this product is pervasive.

Too much salt

People usually make excuses for poor food choices but most consumers of this product who are professionals, educated, literate and savvy will be alarmed when I point out that the sodium content ranges from 44 per cent of the recommended daily allowance to over 50 per cent.

How can the unsuspecting and trusting consumer be protected? We all cherish freedom of choice, so we must protect ourselves through education. Public education is expensive, and I commend the National Health Fund for its attention-grabbing advertisement campaign on consumers' responsibility. There is, however, a problem when cost and taste are the driving forces for most people. A food-label reading campaign is needed.

Information from the FDA's website on sodium levels in foods which can use the claim 'healthy' advise 600mg for meals, this is higher than the recommended 480mg which would comply with the dietary guidelines and the safe upper limit from the USA electrolyte report recommendations. Representatives of the manufacturers argue that if the sodium was lowered to 480mg, it would change the characteristic taste, acceptability and food-safety integrity of many products driving many of these foods from the market.

High blood pressure risk

The cup soup does not fall in the healthy category range with its 1060mg or more of sodium. The FDA had difficulty recommending the lowering of sodium to 480mg for 'healthy' category foods. The responsibility is therefore left to the consumers to make the right choice.

Overwhelming evidence indicates the sodium sensitivity status of black people and also the role of sodium in high blood pressure risk and management. High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart problems, strokes and kidney disease. It is a very expensive disease and it also robs us of many of our income earners. It is a very bad idea to offer easy access of high-sodium products to children in our educational institutions and the public needs urgent education about making safe food choices.

Rosalee M. Brown is a registered dietitian who operates Integrated Nutrition and Health Services; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com.