Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New York City bans trans fats in restaurants

The AP's Jocelyn Noveck offers this summary, dated just a few minutes ago (via Washington Post) ...
New York on Tuesday became the first city in the nation to ban artery-clogging trans fats at restaurants, leading the charge to limit consumption of an ingredient linked to heart disease and used in everything from french fries to pizza dough to pancake mix.
... and finds several person-in-the-street interviewees who support the new ban:
"I don't care about what might be politically correct and what's not," said Murray Bader, nursing a cup of coffee at Dunkin' Donuts on Tuesday morning. "I want to live longer!"
Trans fats are found in baked goods, deep-fried foods, hard margarines, and to a lesser extent meats. They tend to raise the "bad" kind of blood cholesterol. They have few defenders.

Even so, I must admit to fearing that this ban might overreach. Many products in the marketplace are bad for us. Only those products with the highest risks and no redeeming features should be banned. For those products that merely increase risks and have some merits, well-informed consumers can weigh the risk for themselves.

fats may be a borderline case. In your own reflection, ask yourself why trans fats should be banned in restaurants but not barbecue pork ribs? Why ban trans fats in restaurants but not butter-drenched baked treats? Or, following Kate at Accidental Hedonist, why ban trans fats in restaurants but not trans fats in properly labeled manufactured foods such as potato chips?


Anonymous said...

This decision makes me wonder where "we" are at as a soceity. Are "we" beyond the point of being able to make an educated decision about food choices? Can we no longer be responsible for caring for ourselves?

Anonymous said...

Rather than bans, I'd rather see better nutrition labeling and education, so that customers can make educated decisions about their health.

Anonymous said...

Jeanne and Stacy -
As of Jan 2006 trans fats information in proceessed foods are required on the nutrition facts panel on food labels. I agree that people can make their own decisions about food but in NYC they tried to get the restaurants to label trans fats in foods (and post other nutrition information) it didn't happen in legislation or voluntarily - we can debate whether it is appropriate to ban an ingredient in food - but it is hard to argue that people have a choice in restaurants if they do not know trans fats are in the food in the first place.

Anonymous said...

The calorie display portion of the law may turn out to be more important. The only thing is, most people think they can eat 2,500 calories a day (or more, if you're a "big guy"). The FDA should lower the Nutrition Facts label standard to a more realistic 2,000 calories, as they're considering doing in England.

The whole trans fat thing smells like another irrational hysteria to me, like high fructose corn syrup, which has been recently debunked. Trans fat is bad, really bad, just like saturated fat: no better, no worse. Any research results to the contract have been isolated and inconclusive.

J said...

The next problem is going to be that consumers are going to think that cookies and cakes that are free of trans fats are suddenly good for them. So while our arteries may thank us, our waistlines aren't going anywhere.

Anonymous said...


Just wanted to let you know I linked to your blog in my column on CBSNews.com today. Thanks!

If you want to take a look, here's the link: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/12/11/blogophile/main2249155.shtml



Anonymous said...

What I read about Trans fats doesn't square with these comments. Trans fats are artificially produced (processed) and the dangers of consuming them are not the same as consuming saturated fats. There are scientists such as Mary Enig (just Google her to read all about her) who will clearly argue that saturated fats have never really been proven to lead to heart disease while Trans fats have been.

There is no one arguing that there is an acceptable level of Trans fat whereas there is an argument (albeit a minority) that saturated fats can be part of a healthy diet.

Therefore there is no health argument for using Trans fats in food - only an economic one. Why does economics ever trump health?

Unknown said...

BTW, Mark,
I would love to learn more about the "debunking" of the "irrational" high fructose corn syrup "hysteria." Where can I read about that?

Anonymous said...

I wanted to point everyone towards a discussion of the Trans Fat ban by Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity researcher Kelly Brownell: http://ruddsoundbites.typepad.com/rudd_sound_bites/2007/05/why_get_rid_of_.html#more

Brownell argues in an editorial co-written with Harvard nutrition professor Walter Willett that banning trans fats is a way for the government to set "optimal defaults" for health behavior, such as automatic air bags, fluoride in the water and required childhood vaccines.