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Thursday, July 19, 2007

King County To Trans Fats: Get Bent

posted by on July 19 at 9:23 AM

Today the King County Board of Health will vote on banning trans fats.

From my column this week:

In 1911 Crisco food chemists, seeking a cheaper and more-shelf-stable fat for industrial baking, came up with a clever idea: turn the bends in cheap unsaturated fats into kinks, creating trans fats. A kinked chain can pack in like a straight one, allowing tasty baked goods at a lower price. And as an added bonus, because kinked fats are unnatural, they take longer to spoil. Brilliant! But the problem is our livers hate these fats, and they protest by pumping out way less good HDL cholesterol than normal. Plus, each additional 2 percent of your calories from trans fats nearly doubles your risk of getting heart disease, which is why every reputable source agrees there is no “safe” amount of trans fat in your diet.

Two percent of calories is about 5 grams of trans fat – one muffin, a small order of fries, or 5 double-stuffed Oreos (before they were reformulated) per day.

The proposed ban would only affect restaurants, not pre-packaged food.

The legislation would require all food establishments with operating permits from Public Health – Seattle & King County to discontinue using products that contain 0.5 grams or more of artificial trans fat per serving, excluding pre-packaged foods with nutritional labels. The implementation timeframe will be addressed by the Board of Health’s Advisory Committee on Nutrition at its July 9th meeting and will be incorporated immediately into the proposed legislation.

Read the FAQ [PDF] for more information, or attend the meeting today at 1:30pm in the King County Courthouse, Room 1001.

RSS icon Comments


Problem: are they banning _any_ amount of trans fat? Even in the small amounts that occur naturally in some dairy products, as was discussed here on the Slog a while back? That would seem to be overkill.

Posted by tsm | July 19, 2007 9:44 AM

tsm, I am pretty sure its only artificial trans fats.

The BOH is also voting to require menu labeling in chain restaurants. Essentially it would require any restaurants with 10 or more location to put nutritional information on the menu next to the relevant item. So when you order a Big Mac at McDonalds, the number of calories, amount of fat, etc, would be right up on the reader board.

Posted by Giffy | July 19, 2007 9:51 AM

I am really torn on this to be honest. On one hand I am glad they are trying to get it out of the restaurants for health reasons. BUT I really wonder how/who is going to monitor the regulation and yeah, there is a little part of me (I said a little part before everyone freaks out) that sees this as government getting up in our business too much.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | July 19, 2007 9:52 AM

This is what the FDA should be doing.

Posted by monkey | July 19, 2007 9:54 AM

tsm, read post:

The legislation would require all food establishments with operating permits from Public Health – Seattle & King County to discontinue using products that contain 0.5 grams or more of artificial trans fat per serving, excluding pre-packaged foods with nutritional labels.

This regulation and the menu labeling regulation (chain restaurants with 10+ locations) are GREAT!! Please keep us up to date!

Posted by jamier | July 19, 2007 10:08 AM

The FDA isn't going to do it; they don't give a shit about you or your health. They work for the health of the food and drug industry.

I don't like the menu requirement at all, though. It's stupid, and will mean menus clogged with numerical tables. At a place like Subway sandwiches, with dozens of options, the board will be impossible to read. Is it ten locations in the County, or ten locations total? Who tracks this? I predict a staff of fifty.

Posted by Fnarf | July 19, 2007 10:09 AM

The nanny state strikes again with unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape, and also manages to imply that the populace is not intelligent enough to make their own decisions.

You mean that 12 piece bucket of KFC that I just dominated is potentially unhealthy? I never would have known had King Ron not told me.

Posted by adam smith | July 19, 2007 10:12 AM

Fnarf, its ten locations with substantially similar menus whether owned the same, or in the County. Though they must be in the US.

As for monitoring, Public Health already inspects restaraunts. this is just one more thing for them to look for.

If you think thats costly, look at the health costs associated with obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Treating one person with heart disease could hire 3 or 4 health inspectors.

As for cluttering up the menu, reader boards would only need to have calories, if I am reading the proposal right. Print menus would have more.

You can read it here

Posted by Giffy | July 19, 2007 10:15 AM

KFC's 12 piece buckets rock my world. I prefer to eat it while watching PETA's clips of chicken cruelty on youtube. Just kidding. Maybe. Word.

Posted by Mr. Poe | July 19, 2007 10:15 AM

@7 Don't use Adam Smith's name to justify your anti-statism. If you'd read The Wealth of Nations, you'd know that Adam Smith greatly distrusted business and expected the liberal use of heavy handed government to protect the consumer against greedy businessmen.

Posted by Gitai | July 19, 2007 10:22 AM

@7 - "The nanny state strikes again with unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape, and also manages to imply that the populace is not intelligent enough to make their own decisions."

Worst argument against regulation ever. Food manufacturers were saying the same thing before the Pure Food and Drug Act, in an effort to ensure they would continue selling products cut with genuinely poisonous chemicals to an unsuspecting public. If you think that you're capable of evaluating the safety of every product that you use - or, for that matter, that you're the only one who carries the consequences when you make a wrong decision - you're deluded.

Posted by tsm | July 19, 2007 10:24 AM

I have read it. Maybe I misinterpreted this quote?

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an author-ity which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a many who had folly and presump-tion enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.

Posted by adam smith | July 19, 2007 10:30 AM


Of course, they (the populace) are not (intelligent enough to make their own decisions).

Not that I really give a shit if ignorant people gorge themselves on trans fats. That said, there are plenty of alternatives and I don't see a ban as being particularly onerous.

Posted by keshmeshi | July 19, 2007 10:35 AM

I think we're missing the big point: what the hell will this do to Dick's fries?

Posted by Jessica | July 19, 2007 10:45 AM


It doesn't matter what happens to Dick's food. Everybody will still love it, defend it, and claim that it tastes remarkable and that nothing short of an orgasm can compete.

Speaking of Dick's, whatever happened to Mr. Zwickel's follow up?

Posted by Mr. Poe | July 19, 2007 11:01 AM

To trans fats: get bent. Too punny. I like it.

Posted by The Peanut Gallery | July 19, 2007 11:57 AM

@12 He also advocated for taxes on activities deemed to be harmful or foolish, and for subsidies on activities beneficial to society. For instance, he wanted a subsidy for the timber industry, because in addition to the wood, it cleared land for fields, making it more productive (it was the 18th Century). He wanted the dairy industry subsidized because the manure produced by cattle could be used as fertilizer.

Here's some more quotes that would seem to advocate government action against price fixing, cartels, and monopolies:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

Here he is advocating a progressive taxation system:

The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state. The expense of government to the individuals of a great nation is like the expense of management to the joint tenants of a great estate, who are all obliged to contribute in proportion to their respective interests in the estate. In the observation or neglect of this maxim consists what is called the equality or inequality of taxation.

For a full explanation, I recommend you pick up a copy of Rob Walton's Adam Smith against Capitalism.

Posted by Gitai | July 19, 2007 12:17 PM

From the American Council on Science and Health:

Posted by Jake | July 19, 2007 1:37 PM

I like the idea of making sure consumers have enough information to make their own decisions (i.e labeling of foods); but I dislike the idea of bans. What if it is discovered the meat is bad for you (it is, just not widely accepted)? Should we force universal vegetarianism?

(Not that that would ever happen--Cattle industry has way too many hooks in government; but you get my point).

Posted by Dianna | July 19, 2007 1:45 PM

One more thing: the ban will not include pre-packaged does this mean the "creamy liquid" that the restaurant I work at uses to fry everything, which comes pre-packaged in a box, will be allowed?

That would negate the whole point, no?

Posted by Dianna | July 19, 2007 1:50 PM

Dick's might have already stopped using trans fats. Ezell's did and their chicken tastes as good as ever (maybe better).

Posted by elswinger | July 19, 2007 3:06 PM

Dick's may have already stopped using trans fats. Ezell's already did and their chicken tastes the same if not better.

Posted by elswinger | July 19, 2007 3:11 PM

I just don't like how companies SPLASH THE NO TRANS FAT wording all over their products like it is a healthy product because of that.

I suspect some people confuse this with actual saturated fat.

Posted by fun shaped | July 19, 2007 3:13 PM

according to the fda, "zero" trans fat = less than 0.5 grams. (which is completely irritating because in my world, when i say zero i actually mean zero. but whatever.)

and, as for the small amounts of trans fat found naturally in *some* dairy and *some* beef. these are infinitesimally small amounts. keep in mind that 65% of all trans fats consumed in US diets comes from just three sources: commercially produced bakery goods (donuts, cakes, cookies, pies, crackers, bread, etc.), margarine, and fried potatoes (ie: french fries, tots, etc).

Posted by stacy | July 19, 2007 5:53 PM

Jake @ 18, you posted an argument by the ACSH against banning transfats and claiming that their health effects are overblown. A quick search finds that:

"During its first 15 years of operation, ACSH published the names of its institutional funders, but it has stopped doing this in recent years, making it harder to identify where all of its money comes from. In the latest years for which information is available, some 40 percent of ACSH's budget was supplied directly by industry, including a long list of food, drug and chemical companies that have a vested interest in supporting Whelan's message."

And from wikipedia:

"According to the Congressional Quarterly's Public Interest Profiles, Whelan's organization received more than 75 percent of their funding from the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. As a result, the ACSH has been accused of being more of a public relations firm, and less of a neutral council on Science. Jeff Stier, Associate Director of ACSH, has claimed that this information is outdated and inaccurate, with ACSH receiving less than 50 percent of their funding from industry. Despite Dr. Whelan's oft-repeated denial that ACSH is influenced by its funders, there are instances in which funders are known to have participated directly in the production of council publications. According to the council's former administrative director, The Hershey Company did the in-house printing of an ACSH booklet on the health effects of sugar consumption, and the Stroh Brewery Company participated in the editing of a booklet about the health effects of alcohol. The participation of those companies was not acknowledged by ACSH."

just saying

Posted by Lanik | July 19, 2007 7:21 PM

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