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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Let them eat cake (?)

Posted by on September 27 at 15:47 PM

Censorship’s no longer just for smokers—New York and Chicago health officials are considering citywide restaurant bans on artificial trans fatty acids (i.e. the flavor in your favorite fry and the stuffing in your heart attack) by 2008.

The [New York] city health department unveiled a proposal Tuesday that would bar cooks at any of the city’s 24,600 food service establishments from using ingredients that contain the artery-clogging substance, commonly listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated oil.

Artificial trans fats are found in some shortenings, margarine and frying oils and turn up in foods from pie crusts to french fries to doughnuts.

A similar ban on trans fats in restaurant food has been proposed in Chicago and… would only apply to companies with annual revenues of more than $20 million, a provision aimed exclusively at fast-food giants.

Health officials have argued for years that trans fats hold no nutritional value and are a “dangerous and unnecessary ingredient,” as NYC Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden put it. Trans fats can easily be substituted for healthier oils with little or no tasty difference, in fact, the article mentions several foods and companies who have already made the switch—Wendy’s, Crisco (yum!), Doritos, Cheetos, and Oreos.

But foodie freedom fighters are protesting that the bans are unwarranted and intrusive government regulation. Some are sure to argue that they’re taking the [unconstitutional! burdensome! mean!] citywide smoking bans to the next hysterical level.

When our country is waist deep in an obesity crisis, should health officials have the power to tell citizens what they can and cannot eat?

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I think it's a public health issue, not a freedom issue. The city obviously has a right to prevent restaurants from serving food with salmonella or broken glass in it; why not trans fats, which are poisonous?

Organic sustainable food is available at Whole Foods. It's not hard to eat healthy. It's great news that New York city is going to make eat illegal to eat fattening foods. It'll force people to buy organic sustainable vegetables.

I just hate smokers and french fry eaters - they smell bad.

Now if only the government would force everyone to drive hybrid cars. We could stop global warming : )

No, but the FDA does have a long and noble history of mandating what ingredients can't be put into food products - e.g., human fingers, cocaine, chunks of metal.

I'm with you on the smoking ban - very mean! - but if there are equally tasty, less toxic alternative to these fats, then why not force large companies to use them (and lower our collective health insurance premiums as a result)?

These proposed bans have nothing to do with the FDA.

Okay, no Marywanna, no trans fat, but drink and smoke your way to death [takes drag off of cig] we are so fucked. Not that I don't mind sucking the occasional organic lemon, I think it's a good thing, but then is a nice bong hit.

It should be illegal to eat anything but organic and sustainable food. That would force people to stop eating Cheetos, Twinkies and frozen Pizzas. Those foods are worse for you than cigarettes.

The smoking ban was the best thing that ever happened to Seattle. Like Dan Savage, I simply hate smokers. People who eat french fries are probably worse.


Organic carrots taste just as good and are great for you.

Slate has a pretty good piece on the how's and why's:

The bottom line is shelf life or oil. The cheaper oil with the artificial trans fats has a longer shelf life and is therefore cheaper. Replacing the oil with a not artificial trans fat is doable but the restaurants would have to eat the cost.

However, the fat ban is a red herring. The problem is a combination of health insurance and poverty. Contrary as it may seem, the poor are hit hardest by food high in trans fat and therefore more likely to be obese. The poor are also unlikely to have affordable health insurance. Obesity, in many reports, has a health cost similar to smoking. The more uninsured people with health problems create a huge drain on the system which in turn drives up costs etc.

So what NYC is doing is asking the restaurant industry to subsidize its health costs because the government is feasting on its own shit while its head is up its ass.

The government has no place dictating the diets of the people.

They reserve the right to restrict restaurants from serving food with salmonella and shards off glass because both of them will undoubtedly kill you/make you very sick.

Trans fats much like cigarettes greatly increase personal harm but in no way assure it like eating raw chicking or chewing on a lightbulb. The govenment has a duty to educate people of the harms in ingesting these things and try to force change through public awareness.

Obviously there's a line drawn somewhere because crack is really bad for you and it's illegal, however I'm not sure where it would have to be drawn.

Hydrogenated fats are completely aweful from a health perspective. Even totally saturated fats, like butter and tropical oils are better for you.

Saturated fats raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and trigylcerides, but also raise the good cholesterol (HDL). Having enough HDL (at least 40) is the single most important factor for having a reduced risk of heart attack or stroke.

The problem is transfats are basically not found in nature, so our livers don't know how to process them properly, leading to a seriously bad lipid profile if you eat even a little too much of this stuff.

Trans-fats (from hydrogenated oils) raise the bad cholesterol (LDL) and fat (triglycerides) while *reducing* the good cholesterol (HDL), the very worst possible combination.

So the new oreos, while having more saturated fat than the old, are actually healthier than the transfat containing ones.

Further, they taste better. Transfats are just waxy. The only reason the food industry loves them is not even bacteria or mold can really digest them properly, helping keep food fresher longer. The technique of hydrogenating oils really took off when the soy farmers decided it was time to compete with palm oil imported from SE asia. Then the cotton farmers got in on the act.

There are things to support and protect, but transfats are not one of them.

I think the smoking ban is great. Look at that, we agree to disagree! Moving on..

Trans fats aren't just like butter or sugar or something you can eat in moderation and stay healthy. Trans fats are seriously dangerous, like seven times worse than saturated fats, which really only should be eaten sparingly to maintain (note I didn't say 'improve') your health.

The broken glass/salmonella metaphor is a good one. Regular old fat will do the trick with out tripling the rates of heart disease out there. Increased rates of heart disease are bad.

The public needs to know what the hell is going in their food so they can make sound decisions about whether they want to eat it or not. However, if it has absolutely no food value and actively harms people at low or moderate levels and there are viable alternatives, then why not get rid of that crap?

Unlike smoking, one of the problems that people face regarding the consumption of transfats is that they have no way of knowing if the food they order from restaurants have transfats or not. The unique burning smell tends to tip people off about someone smoking in the vicinity. It's not like a list of ingredients is posted by most restaurants.

Yes, it is reasonable to guess that McDonalds or Burger King uses transfatty oils, but who knows what is going into the pastries from their local coffee shop?

If the trans-fat ban is applied equally to all restaurants, then restaurants can (and will) pass the few pennies of cost onto the impoverished consumers, even as the government feasts on its own shit while its head is up its ass.

For a little perspective from the web site

Where are trans fats found?

Trans fats are present in a wide range of foods: according to one estimate, 40 percent of products in the typical US supermarket contain trans fat, and the UK is not far behind.

This is because the hydrogenated vegetable fats which provide most dietary trans fat are a mainstay of the food industry - a cheap bulking agent perfect for padding out expensive processed products, with a long shelf life and a luxurious 'mouth feel'.

They are to be found, for example, in margarine, vegetable shortening, ice-cream, puddings & pudding mixes, ready-made pies, cakes & cake mixes, biscuits, pizza, potato chips, fritters, doughnuts, gravy & sauce mixes, artificial creamers, confectionery and other processed foods, including many foods marketed at children, including some sugary breakfast cereals.

They are also commonly found in restaurant food, especially - but not only - in fast food. You can also make your own trans fat (in small amounts) by repeatedly re-heating cooking oil.

Some trans fats occur naturally in ruminants' stomachs and are thus found in meat and dairy produce. However the quantities are small, and in any event these natural trans fats do not appear to be harmful to human health - as are the man-made trans fats found in hydrogenated vegetable oils.

So when you're out shopping, always inspect the list of ingredients before you buy any product, looking in particular for :

hydrogenated vegetable oil
partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
vegetable shortening
If any of these are listed, leave the product on the shelf. According to the The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's website,

"Consumers can know if a food contains trans fat by looking at the ingredient list on the food label. If the ingredient list includes the words "shortening," "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" or "hydrogenated vegetable oil," the food contains trans fat. Because ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance, smaller amounts are present when the ingredient is close to the end of the list."

Sean, you look like you could use a cigarette or maybe a french fry or two. Lighten up!

The taxpayers will save millions in health care costs if the ban goes through. Even individuals will have reduced health care costs as well when they don't have to spend time in the hospital for yet another heart attack or stroke.

Answer to question: no

I will ignore the totalitarian feel of the proposed regulation (why not just have mandatory public calisthenics until penalty of jail? Worked for other nations as public policy, so why not NYC or USA?). The smoking ban, the selling point everywhere, is that second hand smoke harms innocent Others, which the electorates got behind and supported. Eating French Fries with artificial trans fatty acids could hurt (as in maybe hurt, not, DOES hurt (it ain't rock or meth) only the person doing the eating. I fail to see how the electorate would support such a law. (but then again, I fail to see how people support GW BUSH, continually, and his war, so I guess its only a matter of time till we are all fucked.)

Nanny state bullshit. I could support a requirement that warning notices be posted, though, as California does for the potential presence of carcinogens.

Spec, do some research first before posting. Trans fats ARE as bad as salmonella or uncooked "chicking". We're not talking about butter here; we're talking about POISON. The recommended intake of trans fats for humans is zero.

I agree costs would be passed on but some smaller restaurant would fold and be replaced by chains but that might be inevitable. I think it is a bullshit law. Reading through this thread, it is pretty obvious that with a small amount of education people can make better choices about what they eat.

It is true that a customer, without asking, doesn't know what is in what product. But I think it's fair to assume that no one considers a scone health food, or french fries or cheetos or fried anything. The point being, this ban doesn't address the issue of obesity. As a population we are not fat because of trans-fat. We are fat because of increased portion sizes, a sedentary life-style, stress etc.

Banning trans-fat is political stunt. It looks and sounds great and will lower the cholesterol in some people but the effect will be minimal except for an economic burden the middle-class and lower will absorb.

If obesity in NYC is such a problem that they are resorting to such measures as banning food substances why don't they also ban portion sizes, reduce work hours to reduce stress or allow time for home cooked meals, mandate physical activity in offices, also ban fried food, distribute health guides or any number of things.

Bans or any sort of prohibition, generally, don't solve a problem. It just passes the buck.

Trans-fats are bad for you. So is having x#-million cars worth of exhaust polluting a city. Worried about the air? Ban the internal combustion engine!

It's not even a step in the right direction. It is simply an invisible thing that few people will get pissed about that looks like action when it is simply slight of hand.

Trans fats have nothing to do with obesity. The have to do with heart disease. Did you even read the article you linked to?

I think most of us would agree with the obvious step of requiring any transfat content to be clearly stated.

Look at the grocery store: it has already happened, causing many food companies to drop the stuff (e.g. Oreos now without transfat. Before each cookie had 1.5g!)

The problem is while eating out, it's nearly impossible to tell if the food has transfat in it. In some ways, an across-the-board ban is easier for a small resturaunt to implement than painstaking testing of each dish. I'm all for people being able to make up their mind, but I also recognize that it's nearly impossble to implement such a system.

No-one is talking about banning any particular food, just a really really nasty ingredient. This isn't the end of french fries, just the end of french fries cooked in month-old oil. What's wrong with that? This "food won't taste as good" argument is bullshit. Who really thinks margarine tastes better than butter?

Transfats aren't just bad, they've been an unmitigated disaster for human health. Cardiovascular disease is the #1 of death in the US. Transfats have a lot to do with that. Even for people of normal weight, the damage to the lipid profile is catastrophic.

Remember when the red dye that caused cancer was pulled from the market, leading to no red M&Ms for a while? I remember my childhood turning out ok.

Transfats are far more dangerous to human health than that dye.

Given a choice, the law is a bad idea, but mandatory warnings are preferred. Like the warnings against eating undercooked food... sunny-side up eggs, sushi, steak, etc, then so it is.

Bans, prohibitions, of any sort are generally bad ideas. Regulations, those which grant access to the general public, are best.

By all means, folks, continue arguing in favor of giving the government power over what we do with our bodies. After all, people are too ignorant to make their own decisions and it's in the interest of public health.

Frothy mix, Doc Dobson and their value voting friends will find that logic fantastic, especially when they apply it to abortion and gay sex.

I didn't read all of the comments here so I could be repeating things but here's the deal: Nobody goes up to the counter and orders trans-fat. Trans-fat is a component of some of the ingrediants in food ranging from french fries to desserts in 5-star restuarants. It is also relatively easy to eliminate - any cook or resturanteur who tells you otherwise is ignorant or lazy (seriously).

Trans fat is essentially a poison and it probably should be banned just as certain poisonous pesticides are banned. The argument that the government is "telling us what to eat" is a straw man argument of the highest order. And Cienna, your question is misleading. It wouldn't be illegal to *eat* trans fat, it would be a violation to use it in prepared food. The distinction may seem minor but it is important. Your question is leading to a conclusion much more sinister than what is actually being proposed. And that's regardless of the potential benefit to the overall health of those who [unknowingly] reduce or remove trans fat from their diets.

"Censorship’s no longer just for smokers"

This could explain the state of recent debates on this blog over free speech. It would appear that even the press has forgotten what it means for speech to actually be threatened.

1. The act, process, or practice of censoring.
2. The office or authority of a Roman censor.
3. Prevention of disturbing or painful thoughts or feelings from reaching consciousness except in a disguised form.

4. counterintelligence achieved by banning or deleting any information of value to the enemy.
5. deleting parts of publications or correspondence or theatrical performances

Anyone who considers their smoking to be part of a theatrical performance is just plain sad (or in Jr. High and just plain sad). Smoking is not speech, and therefore can not be censored, unless of course it is being used as a method to communicate with the enemy.

As a member of the press, I would think that you would take censorship more seriously. Words lose meaning when used loosely. Some words, like censorship, rape and love, should be used carefully in order to preserve their meaning for those occasions when they are really needed.

As to trans-fat:
Unless they are going to declare it a controlled substance and outlaw its use completely, I’m not overly concerned. Eating in restaurants and eating anything you want in restaurants is not a Right.

Some communities decide you shouldn’t be able to buy foie gras in their restaurants because what they do to those poor little gooses cuts against their moral fiber; and horse meat is off the menu in most American cites (but man do those crazy Europeans love them both!) The public has the privilege of regulating public places (including restaurants).

So maybe New Yorkers find it morally reprehensible to allow businesses to feed the poor as though they were fattening them to be foie gras (and possible they shrink from the idea of only letting the rich eat whatever they want in public).

Seems misguided to me, I prefer free choice and all, but as long as they aren’t telling anyone what they can or can’t eat in their own home, I refuse to cry Tyranny just yet.

Cienna et al:

Chicago's "health officials" are not considering a trans-fat ban: one fucking moron grandstanding alderman, Ed Burke, is proposing one. Big difference.

At the same time, of course, we've just repealed a law requiring Big Box stores to pay $10/hour, and some are working to repeal the ban on selling fois gras in restaurants.

This ban was passed by the shitheads at PETA in coordination with the bonehead who is alderman of the Ward I've lived in my whole fucking life. We've got crime, violence, drugs, all the usual urban fun and games, and 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore got the City Council to ban the sale of fois gras because it's so cruel for waterfowl.

So, in response, besides the inevitable lawsuits, the restaurants (maybe a cuople of dozen, French being a cuisine we don't do much here) which had it on the menu just served it anyway--without charging for it. The fois gras was free, the greens it nestled in cost $20. One pizza joint served fois gras pizza just to fuck with the city.

See, there's more than just the Bears going on in this town. Though we're gonna eat the Seahawks' livers on toast points come Sunday.

Bill "My liver ain't fat, it's just traumatized"

Fucking nanny state government. If a restaurant wants to serve cyanide in its food, let the free market decide! Eventually, between dead customers and surviving family members avoiding the restaurant, it'll go out of business.

Problem solved... WITHOUT father-knows-best government regulation.

Done: "Sean, you look like you could use a cigarette or maybe a french fry or two. Lighten up!"

I'm definitely due for a smoke, it's been a few months. Fortunatley, it's easy to mooch them nowadays - the ban seems to have created a sense of camaraderie among smokers.

So, the post in question was for GDC, and I just quoted back his government head up the ass line because I thought it was really funny. And, to clear, I think trans-fats are worse than human fingers in food. Ban 'em I say!

"Fucking nanny state government."

I hear you, Aexia. But when your individual liberty comes at the expense of mine, someone has to step in on behalf of the common good. Your trans-fats raise my health care costs. Your SUV polutes my air, raises my gas prices, and threatens my national security. Your gun collection raises my chances of being shot by a stolen weapon. For some things, the "nanny state" has it's place.

On the other hand, my lap dances and bong hits aren't hurting anyone. Neither is my porn collection, my taste for high price escorts, or bringing my kid into the beer garden at Oktoberfest. If it isn't hurting anyone, then, the nanny state should back the hell off.

Exercise. This country's obesity problem is a result of their overtly sedantary style, far and away the most sedantary that humanity has ever been.

As for the question, uh... way to frame it. If it serves no positive purpose and it's an additive anyway, as long as it doesn't seriously drive up food costs, I say do it.

To answer the question: No.

Why doesnt the government put massive taxes on trans-fat like they do to cigarettes and alchol? That would make it more expensive, so by default the restaruants would go for the better oil. The only reason they use it is because its cheap and they want to maximize profit. I say tax it, and use the money for health initiatives throughout the city. This would help educate people and help the "greater good" without infriging on peoples "right" to kill themselves as they see fit.

The smoking ban was bullshit. They could have used massive tax incentives for bars to go "non-smoking". If bars and restuarants got a large tax break, you can bet there would be MANY non-smoking bars, and only a few "smoker hangouts".(I am not a smoker, btw)

Also, no one has addressed that alcohol consuption is MUCH more harmful to the "greater good" than cigarettes, transfat, lap-dances, etc. Yet I don't hear a cry from the people "ban alcohol! save the childern! It hurts the poor and disprivlaged!" So STFU.

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